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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.

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries to passengers and crew on Saturday, per authorities and a company statement.

The big picture: 141 passengers and 16 crew members were estimated to be on the Empire Builder train, traveling from Chicago to Seattle and Portland, when eight of the 10 cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak said early Sunday.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.