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Thune, Menendez Legislation Prioritizes Kids’ Mental Health

Senators’ bipartisan legislation would encourage states to develop health services initiatives that address behavioral health needs in schools

February 8, 2022

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care policy, today introduced the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) School Behavioral Health Incentive Act. This bipartisan legislation would encourage states to develop health services initiatives that address behavioral health needs in schools.


“Parents, teachers, and school administrators across South Dakota continue to report that students are in greater need of behavioral health services now more than ever,” said Thune. “Our bill aims to help further incentivize states to take advantage of health services initiatives, an option already available to them under CHIP, but one that’s not fully utilized. I am hopeful that with this extra flexibility, states will be empowered to find creative solutions to get students the support they need.”


“Improving behavioral health services for kids is of critical importance and this bill is an effective way to begin tackling this problem,” said Menendez. “I’m glad to partner with Sen. Thune in leading this common-sense, bipartisan effort that would provide funding for states that implement a health services initiative for behavioral health services in schools. Doing so will improve the capacity to deliver public health services to kids, especially those who live in low-income communities.” 


CHIP currently permits states to engage in health services initiatives – activities to protect the public health of kids or expand the capacity of services. States can choose to establish one or multiple initiatives that are targeted to address local needs using a portion of their administrative funds. If a state opts to establish an initiative aimed at addressing behavioral health in schools, the CHIP School Behavioral Health Incentive Act would provide greater funding flexibility.