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  • Washington Highlights

    Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing Investigating the Youth Mental Health Crisis

    Sinead Hunt, Legislative Analyst
    For Media Inquiries

    On June 8, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing, “Why Are So Many American Youth in a Mental Health Crisis? Exploring Causes and Solutions.” The hearing examined the potential drivers of the youth mental health crisis, including social isolation and the COVID-19 pandemic, social media, gun violence, and sexual orientation and gender identity.   

    The first panel featured testimony from two federal officials: Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, and Katherine Neas, deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for the U.S. Department of Education. In his testimony, Murthy focused on the adverse impact of social media on young people’s mental health, highlighting two recently issued Surgeon General Advisories on social media and isolation. Neas' testimony focused on her department’s efforts to expand access to school-based mental health services by growing the supply of mental health professionals and increasing access to Medicaid funding. Both Murthy and Neas touted investments made by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (P.L. 117-159), which expanded the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic model and authorized grants for states to finance school-based mental health services under Medicaid [refer to Washington Highlights, June 24, 2022].  

      During the second panel, the committee heard from Joy Osofsky, PhD, professor of pediatrics, psychiatry, and public health at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. In her testimony, Osofsky delineated the impact of exposure to trauma on children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development, outlining how the “indefinite uncertainty” resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic was uniquely harmful to young people’s mental health. She emphasized the need for a trauma-informed, community-centered approach to mental health and pandemic recovery for students, teachers, and other school personnel.