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Rep. Becca Balint Introduces Youth Mental Health Legislation

The PEER Mental Health Act Will Fund Program for Peer Response Training

Washington, D.C - Today, Rep. Becca Balint introduced the Peer Education and Emergency Response (PEER) for Mental Health Act. This legislation would establish a grant program that supports training for teachers, school personnel, parents, caregivers, and students in mental health first aid.

Increased isolation following the pandemic, greater academic and social pressures, and social media have all contributed to a significant mental health crisis among school aged children and adolescents. Forty-two percent of high school students report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and twenty-two percent say they seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, according to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

The grants established by this bill would be used to train teachers, school personnel, parents/caregivers and students in mental health first aid to:

  • Recognize symptoms of mental health disorders in children in adolescents
  • Refer participants to necessary mental health treatment
  • Identify signs of immediate mental distress (such as panic attacks) and, upon recognizing such signs apply mental health first aid tactics
  • Educate participants on the resources that are available in the community for individuals with a mental illness.

“Vermonters are struggling and feel ill equipped to support one another through the mental health crisis we are facing as a nation. I’m proud to introduce legislation that alleviates the burden on our youth and gives them the tools they need to support one another,” said Rep. Becca Balint. “Mental health first aid training won’t and shouldn’t take the place of training, recruiting, and hiring more counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. We must also invest in resources for professional intervention, but our kids want and need to be equipped with the knowledge to uplift and support their friends and classmates.” 

The bill streamlines the application process so that public schools and state and local education agencies with limited personnel and resources can easily apply. This bill authorizes $24,963,000 for each of fiscal years 2024 through 2028, which complements the current Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Mental Health First Aid grant program.

The bill is endorsed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the National Education Association (NEA), and the National Council on Mental Wellbeing. 

More information on the bill here. For the text of the bill here.