NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Gov. Bill Lee reintroduced his plans to fund a mental health trust fund in a renewed proposal to assist K-12 families who are facing significant mental health issues after removing it from his budget last year as concerns over COVID-19 began to form.

The proposal allocates $250 million in available funds to create strong mental health services for school-aged students through a systemwide, evidence-based approach.

“The mental health of all Tennessee students is essential to their safety, education and success beyond the classroom,” Lee said. “While my administration proposed these critical mental health supports last year, we now have the available funding and a greater need than ever before 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.”

In January 2021, Tennessee ranked 28th in overall mental health and 34th overall in youth mental health, according to the State of Mental Health in America Report. Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports also show an uptick nationally in emergency department visits for children struggling with mental health issues.

Services supported by the mental health trust fund would include: 

  • Direct clinical services in schools
  • Mental health awareness and promotion
  • Suicide prevention and postvention (after care) strategies
  • Trauma-informed programs and practices
  • Violence and bullying prevention
  • Project Basic, which includes mental health supports

Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Marie Williams said intervening and getting mental health services for children and families as soon as possible leads to better outcomes.

“The services that will be funded by this investment will allow us to increase the services available from community mental health providers and schools, preventing children from entering mental health crisis situations and ending up in an emergency room,” Williams said.