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Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

Funding schools, and specifically hiring additional counselors, can help address children's mental health concerns, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) said at an Axios Event on Thursday.

Why it matters: Demand for mental health services for teens has skyrocketed amid the coronavirus pandemic, though Cortez Masto said the country didn't have a strong grasp on the issue even before the virus started forcing schools to cease in-person classes.

Context: Mental health professionals have repeatedly voiced their concerns about the pandemic's effect on children's mental health, and hospitals have seen an increase in mental health emergencies among children, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.

What they're saying: "We need more counselors. We need to make sure we have the opportunity for schools to work with community-based programs and focus on the mental health needs of our children and their families," Cortez Masto said.

  • "I've been pushing the administration and focused on making sure that we put additional dollars into two grant programs — about five hundred million dollars in grant programs — that focuses on our counselors and making sure we're hiring more counselors for our schools, because this is the time to make sure the money spent in the right way — the best interest of our kids."

"We don't know," Cortez Masto said when asked if she thinks the pandemic will have long term effects on children.

  • "Now's the time to start focusing on the mental health and the well-being of our kids," she added.
  • Cortez Masto said 18 kids have died by suicide in Nevada as of February.

The big picture: The American Rescue plan gave $122 billion in relief to K-12 schools, which they are allowed to use to counter all aspects the pandemic's effects on students, including mental health.

  • The Department of Education said schools can use the funding to implement "strategies to meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students hit hardest by the pandemic, including through evidence-based interventions and critical services like community schools."

Watch the full event here.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: dial 711 ,then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Go deeper

Aug 25, 2021 - Axios Des Moines

Des Moines police officers no longer stationed at district schools

Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Students won't be seeing police officers stationed at Des Moines Public Schools this year.

  • Starting Wednesday, Iowa's largest public school district has officially replaced school resource officers (SROs) with "restoration and safety coordinators." That means staff members are now in charge of safety and security at their school buildings.

Why it matters: The district eliminated the roles in response to local and national concerns that SROs fuel a "school-to-prison pipeline" — the link between punishments such as expulsions that place students out of school and into the criminal justice system.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."