Governor Lee Renews Proposal for Mental Health Trust Fund

Nashville, Tenn. — Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee reintroduced the Mental Health Trust in a renewed proposal to help K-12 families facing significant mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19. This proposal allocates $250 million of available funds to create robust mental health services for school-age students through a comprehensive, evidence-based approach.

“The mental health of all Tennessee students is essential to their safety, education, and success outside of the classroom,” Geoff Lee said. “While my administration proposed this essential mental health support last year, we now have the funding available and a greater need than ever to ensure our students have access to mental health resources. I thank the members of the General Assembly for their partnership in this important effort.”

“We know that the earlier we can intervene, the better the outcomes for children and families,” said Mary Williams, Commissioner for TDMHSAS, LCSW. “The services that will be funded through this investment will allow us to increase the services available from community mental health providers and schools, preventing children from getting into mental health crisis situations and ending up in the emergency room.”

Services supported by the Mental Health Trust include:

  • Clinical services directly in schools
  • Awareness and promotion of mental health
  • Suicide prevention and postvention strategies
  • Trauma-informed programs and practices
  • Preventing violence and bullying
  • Core project, which includes mental health support

There is a great need for strong K-12 mental health support:

  • Nationwide, one in five children will have a psychiatric diagnosis in any given year
  • More than 60% of children who receive mental health services do so through their school
  • Young people’s mental health has deteriorated in the past decade: From 2014 to 2019, the prevalence of major depressive episodes (MDE) in Tennessee youth ages 12-17 increased from 9.1%
  • The approximate prevalence of any mental illness last year among Tennessee youth was about 300,000.
  • In January 2021, Tennessee ranked 28th in overall mental health and 34th overall in youth mental health.
  • School closures during COVID-19 have limited students’ access to mental health services and caused a pause in critical mental health reports.
  • Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a marked increase nationally in emergency department visits for children with mental health problems.

The Lee administration has taken strong action to address mental health:

  • Children’s behavioral health safety netBasic mental health support for uninsured children aged 3-17 starting in September 2020.
  • Expanding the School Behavioral Health Link (SBBHL): Expanded proven program for all 95 counties.
  • Suicide Prevention Network TN: Expand regional managers to increase coverage and strengthen suicide prevention training.
  • Awareness and promotion of mental health for young people and adolescents: Funding was awarded to three separate programs totaling more than 11,000 individuals.

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