New bill aims to increase school mental health counselors

The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act would establish two five-year renewable grant programs to staff schools with mental health services providers. (News 10)

Oregon lawmakers and mental health experts are working to improve the student to school counselor ratio with a new bill.

Introduced on Wednesday by Sen. Jeff Merkley, the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act would establish two five-year renewable grant programs to staff schools with mental health services providers.

The program will provide both need-based and proportional-based funding.

Sen. Merkley said the bill will provide students with the necessary in-school treatment and care they need.

"This is just something I've heard about all across the state of Oregon, from administrators to educators to parents, that enough students have a mental health issue that they really need an expert to be part of the school staff," Merkley said.

The recommended student-to-counselor ratio is 250 students per counselor, but the current national average is 455 students per counselor.

Sen. Merkley said the purpose of this legislation would ensure students are not left waiting for support during a crisis, as youth with access to mental health services providers in their school are 10 times more likely to seek care.

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