sswaa policy and advocacy
Federal Advocacy Update
Alongside our efforts around the Build Back Better Act this fall, SSWAA’s team in Washington learned of plans in Congress to move forward with comprehensive mental health legislation in 2022. We were given the opportunity to submit comment letters to two key Senate committees, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the Finance Committee (which handles Medicaid and telehealth-related issues). These letters were a fantastic way for SSWAA to be positioned as leaders in student mental health. We plan to continue to provide input as they develop this legislation next year. In the House, the Bipartisan Addiction and Mental Health Task Force released an agenda which outlined bills they would like to see passed before the midterm elections next November; this includes multiple pieces of SSWAA-supported legislation that would fund school-based mental health services. We appreciate that Congress is prioritizing mental health, and we look forward to working closely with them to address student mental health challenges over the next year.
This fall, SSWAA endorsed the IDEA Full Funding Act, introduced by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA). This bill would provide full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides federal funds for special education programs and the education of children with disabilities.
The Mental Health Liaison Group (MHLG) held their annual meeting on December 2nd. At this meeting, MHLG member organizations awarded several Congressional staffers with the Hill Staff Champion Award. We also celebrated the coalition’s successes over the past year, including successful efforts to expand mental health services during the pandemic, ongoing input on the implementation of the 988 National Suicide Designation Lifeline, and House legislation to increase funding for several grant programs targeting school-based mental health services.
To get more involved in our advocacy efforts, reach out to Rob Lucio (email@example.com) or Emilie Souhrada (firstname.lastname@example.org), the co-chairs of the Advocacy and Legislative Action Committee!
On the hill
SSWAA 2022 Legislative Priorities
School-Based Mental Health Services: The mental health needs of students have been growing for years, but the long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have further exacerbated these challenges. Alarmingly high rates of mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety have left school-based mental health services personnel overburdened with higher caseloads, yet severe workforce shortages and tight budgets have left schools unable to expand these services quickly enough to meet demand.
Recognition for the School Social Work Profession: School social workers are the vital link between the home, school, and community, and provide services to support students' academic and social success. They work with school administrators, teachers, students, and families, providing leadership in forming school discipline policies, mental health intervention, support services, academic success plans, and crisis management.
Federal Funding for Education: Providing federal funding to support state and local education agencies is critical to ensuring that school social workers have the tools needed to do their jobs, and that students have equitable access to resources and opportunities.
Student and Family Wellbeing: It is the responsibility of school social workers to advocate for the students we serve, be it on the individual or Congressional level. Issues such as homelessness, hunger, inequitable opportunities, and harmful immigration policies have detrimentally impacted our students at an alarmingly increasing rate. Policies which promote housing and food security, pathways to citizenship, educational equity and racial justice would have a profoundly positive effect on students’ ability to succeed.
take action now
[Elected official’s name]:
I am a school social worker in [city or school district] writing to you in [opposition to/support of] [bill title or policy issue], which would [effect of bill, i.e.: set aside funding for schools to provide comprehensive school-based mental health services].
[This is where you make the case for your stance on the bill. Include 2-3 of the strongest points that support your position, either by demonstrating there is a problem which this bill can help to solve, or by explaining what harm the bill would cause. This could be statistics, qualitative statements, or anything else you’d like to highlight.]
[If you’d like, include a personal story here of your experiences and how this legislation would positively or negatively affect you, your students and their families, your school district, and/or your community.]
[If there is a specific action/vote taking place on the bill, mention it here.] I encourage you to show your support for [the school social work profession/children and families/student mental health/etc.] by voting [Yes/No] on [bill title].
“Hello, my name is [name], and I am a school social worker in [city/district]. I’m calling to ask that [Senator/Representative Name] vote [yes/no] on [bill title], which would [effect of bill]. This bill will [describe how the bill will affect you, your students and their families, and/or the community]. [If there is a specific action/vote taking place on the bill, mention it.] I hope to see the [Senator/Representative] [support/oppose] this legislation. Thank you for your time!”
Example Call Script
“Hello, my name is Jane Smith and I am a school social worker in Spokane. I am calling to ask that Senator Murray vote yes on SB 100, the School Nutrition Act, which would provide additional funding for free dinner programs in schools. Many of my students struggle with food insecurity, and it has a serious impact on their academic, social, and physical well-being. Funding this program would help to eliminate these barriers and ensure the success of my students and youth around the country. The bill will be up for a vote on the Senate floor on January 21st, and I hope to see the Senator support this legislation. Thank you for your time!”