Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (File photo)

Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44) recently voted to pass H.R. 7780, the Mental Health Matters Act, legislation that would expand resources to address the growing mental health needs of children and school staff, strengthen school-based behavioral health care, and ensure access to mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits for workers and families.

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the unique mental health challenges that school personnel face, including the task of addressing learning loss and supporting students’ heightened social and emotional needs. Additionally, the pandemic took a serious toll on students, with over forty percent of students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, nearly twenty percent seriously considered suicide, and more than half of parents and caregivers express concern over their children’s mental well-being.

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“Far too many Americans, including our youth, lack access to the support and services needed to deal with their mental health needs,” said Barragán. “The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the need for mental health care that was already in short supply, especially for our nation’s kids. Poor mental health seriously disrupts both the student trying to learn and the instructor trying to teach, and for decades schools and administrators suffered from insufficient resources and support to address the mental and behavioral health needs of students and staff.

“This bill creates a pathway for increasing the number of school-based mental health providers, bolsters resources to millions of schools across the country, and protects college students who request accommodations for an existing mental health problem. The mental well-being of our nation’s students, workers, and families is essential, and I am proud to have voted for this bill that will deliver much-needed support to ensure that they can fully participate in their education.”


The Mental Health Matters Act will:

  • Direct the Department of Education to award grants to state educational agencies to recruit and retain school-based mental-health services providers a t high need public elementary and secondary schools;
  • Direct the Department of Education to award grants to build a pipeline of school based mental health services providers and increase the number of mental health professionals serving in elementary and secondary schools in high need areas;
  • Require institutions of higher education to allow incoming students with existing documentation of a disability to access disability accommodations and require institutions to adopt more transparent policies around the accommodations process;
  • Create a grant program to increase students’ access to evidence-based trauma support and mental health services by developing innovative initiatives to link schools and local educational agencies with local trauma-informed support and mental health systems;
  • Require the Department of Health and Human Services to identify evidence-based interventions for Head Start programs and help Head Start agencies implement these interventions to improve the health of children and staff;
  • Provide the Department of Labor with strengthened authority to ensure that private, employer-sponsored group health plans comply with the requirements of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and related laws; and
  • Strengthen the ability of Americans with private, employer-sponsored health and retirement plans to hold plan sponsors accountable when they are improperly denied benefits by banning forced arbitration agreements and ensuring a fair standard of review by the courts.