The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Health and Human Services recently reaffirmed their commitment to children and youth by launching a joint effort to expand school-based health services, ensuring children have the health services and supports necessary to build resilience and thrive, according to a news release.

The departments note that throughout the country, childcare centers, schools, after-school programs, and recreational activities closed, disconnecting nearly 60 million children and youth from essential resources and supports. Many families faced job loss, economic hardship, and food insecurity, profoundly affecting child health and well-being.

This is why the departments have joined together to provide additional technical assistance, resources and support to schools that will provide guidance on the federal funding available for school-based physical and behavioral health services, including how Medicaid can support the delivery of these services; help reduce the federal administrative burden for states and localities, including local educational agencies, and barriers to the provision of school-based physical and behavioral health services; and improve and strengthen access to physical and behavioral health services.

“Our nation’s children have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including significant impacts on their mental health,” U.S. Education Department Secretary Miguel A. Cardona and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a joint statement. “Youth reports of psychological distress have doubled since the pandemic began, with 25% reporting depressive symptoms and 20% reporting anxiety symptoms… Children and youth with intellectual or developmental disabilities and those with prior childhood trauma are at particular risk for pandemic-related mental health challenges, as are those who have faced previous discrimination in the health care system, including children and youth of color, immigrant children, children with disabilities, and those who are LGBTQ+.”

“While the pandemic’s long-term impacts on children and youth are not fully understood, working together to build resilience in children, youth, and families can promote equity and support recovery efforts,” the secretaries continued. “We will elevate opportunities under the American Rescue Plan funding along with existing federal resources to build a lasting and sustainable health care infrastructure for our children and youth. We welcome and encourage your engagement, questions, and partnership on any of the resources we have published. Our joint effort will build on progress made, as both departments work together to make accessible, quality health services in schools a reality for all children and youth.”

As part of this effort, the departments will co-host a webinar, March 30 at 3 p.m. Register here.

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