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Peer-to-peer support lines feature in new mental health bill


Advocates rally around proposed legislation

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2023 — First Focus Campaign for Children is leading organizations in support of a measure that would improve children’s mental health through innovations including peer-to-peer support lines and placement of mental health coordinators in schools around the country.

A dozen advocacy groups have joined forces to buoy the Supporting All Students Act, introduced by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The Supporting All Students Act is a two-pronged approach to increasing access to mental health support, establishing a youth peer-to-peer support line and a grant program for school-based mental health coordinators.

“We thank Senators Casey and Brown for their leadership on highlighting the behavioral health needs of children, teens and young adults – and for offering solutions,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley. “The Supporting All Students Act offers common sense, immediate and effective policy solutions by providing states with funding to hire school-based mental health coordinators and establishing a peer-to-peer support line as part of the ongoing, national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. We look forward to working with the Senators to advance the mental health needs of our children.”

Other supporters include the organizations: American Federation of Teachers, Children’s Defense Fund, Family Voices, Youth Villages, Primary Care Development Corporation, The Youth Power Project, American Psychological Association Services, School Social Work Association of America, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, National League for Nursing, and School-Based Health Alliance.

Children in the United States are facing unprecedented mental health challenges. In October 2021, First Focus on Children joined other leading children’s health organizations to declare a national state of emergency regarding child mental health in the Sound the Alarm campaign, and in December 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory titled “Protecting Youth Mental Health” which precipitated a wave of hearings and legislation by Congress.

School-based mental health coordinators, intended to help identify children who need mental health services and make sure they are connected to the care they need either in school or the larger community, are relatively new concept being explored by states including Alabama and Maryland. Research has shown that young people are most likely to talk with peers about mental health issues, and peer-to peer support lines have proven effective in several settings, including Oregon, where Youthline provides a free, confidential, teen-to-teen crisis help support hotline. First Focus on Children and other organizations have long supported integrating existing youth-led peer crisis intervention programs into the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to build a national sub-line staffed by teens, for teens.

First Focus Campaign for Children is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.