Mental health in schools is becoming an integral component of student support networks. Psychologically healthy students tend to be eager to learn, actively participate in school activities, have caring and supportive relationships with adults and peers, use adequate problem-solving expertise, exhibit non-aggressive behaviors, and contribute to better school culture.

COVID-19 had a significant influence on the emotional health of students. They have significant anxiety levels and sadness due to their isolation at home, disconnection from peers, and exposure to traumatic events, such as joblessness or death in the family due to a pandemic.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 44% of teenagers had persistent emotions of melancholy or despair during the pandemic, contrasted with 37% in 2019. In schools, students’ difficulties emerge as disobedience, disinterest in classwork, and increasing absenteeism.

Acknowledging this, districts around the nation are utilizing federal COVID relief funds to introduce mental health specialists into classrooms and enhance social-emotional development.

Public schools have received almost $190 billion in three waves of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) money that may be utilized for several goals and in school-based mental health interventions. 

But this extraordinary flood of government funds also raises a challenge: how to maintain additional school staff jobs after the financing ends at the end of 2024. Medicaid, the federal-state collaboration offering healthcare for millions of public school students, might be part of the answer – as long as states take the appropriate measures to utilize it and federal departments back them up.

Using a database of over 4,400 local spending plans collected by the data-services firm Burbio and wrapping 70 per cent of the nation’s students, FutureEd discovered that even more than one-third of local education agencies had set aside an amount of $1.2 billion in ESSER financing for psychologists, social services, and mental health counselors. If the pattern continues, the investment might surpass $2 billion. 

Poway Unified School District in the San Diego area is allocating well almost $10 million of its $17 million ESSER III allocation for the employing of social workers, psychologists, and counselors in its 38 schools, while the Hot Springs School District in Arkansas is allocating $1.2 million of its $21 million allocation for the employment of therapists for its six schools.

Do we have any examples of this allocation in Mass?

School districts in virtually every state are making similar expenditures, although the approach is more prevalent in some regions than others: 263 of 583 California districts in the Burbio survey want to spend ESSER III funding on mental health specialists, as opposed to five of 215 Arkansas districts.

Leveraging Medicaid

Medicaid may be used by states and school districts to fund mental health treatment for kids via a range of methods, notably school-based health centers and partnerships with community clinicians, such as the Apex program in Georgia. Nevertheless, school districts that have employed their internal mental health specialists and intend to maintain those jobs when ESSER monies expire may be able to fill the need via school Medicaid programs.

In 2014, the federal government enabled schools to request Medicaid payment for various health services offered by school workers, including mental health counselors, for all Medicaid-enrolled kids by reversing the “free care rule.”

Our experience with Federal and State regulations, as well as our knowledge of the school district’s unique needs, enable us to identify every opportunity for claim reimbursement. Massachusetts is Free Care care and has been since 2019. We have a long history of success in school-based Medicaid claiming and our team is dedicated to providing the best possible service to our clients. You can read more about us and our process on our website, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions!

Takeaway

Schools may be vital partners in resolving the mental health needs of kids, particularly if obstacles to school Medicaid programs are eliminated.

Hopefully, the epidemic is evident to schools, health care professionals, and the community. The connection between the emotional and behavioral health of kids and their academic achievement should be front and center in any discussion. 

Again something linking this back to NEMB and our training to increase reimbursement for mental health services.

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