$250 million to support services in K-12 schools


Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee re-introduced the Mental Health Trust Fund in a renewed proposal to assist K-12 families who are facing significant mental health issues in the wake of COVID-19. This proposal allocates $250 million in available funds to create strong mental health services for school-aged students through a systemwide, evidence-based approach.


“The mental health of all Tennessee students is essential to their safety, education and success beyond the classroom,” said Gov. Lee. “While my administration proposed these critical mental health supports last year, we now have the available funding and a greater need than ever before to ensure our students have access to mental health resources. I thank the members of the General Assembly for their partnership in this important effort.”


“We know the earlier we can intervene, the better outcomes are for children and families,” said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “The services that will be funded by this investment will allow us to increase the services available from community mental health providers and schools, preventing children from entering mental health crisis situations and ending up in an emergency room.”


Services supported by the Mental Health Trust Fund would include: 

  • Direct clinical services in schools
  • Mental health awareness and promotion
  • Suicide prevention and postvention strategies
  • Trauma-informed programs and practices
  • Violence and bullying prevention
  • Project Basic, which includes mental health supports

There is a significant need for strong K-12 mental health supports:

  • Nationally, one in five children has a mental health diagnosis in any given year
  • Over 60% of children who receive mental health services do so through their school
  • Youth mental health has worsened in the last decade: From 2014 to 2019, the prevalence of Major Depressive Episode (MDE) in Tennessee youth ages 12-17 increased from 9.1%
  • The approximate prevalence of any mental illness in the past year among Tennessee youth is about 300,000
  • In January 2021, Tennessee ranked28th in overall mental health and 34th overall in youth mental health
  • School closures during COVID-19 limited students’ access to mental health services and caused a pause in critical mental health reporting
    • Recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reportsshow a notable uptick nationally in emergency department visits for children struggling with mental health issues

The Lee administration has taken strong action to address mental health:

  • Behavioral Health Safety Net for Children: Essential mental health supports for uninsured children age 3-17 beginning September 2020
  • School Based Behavioral Health Liaison (SBBHL) Expansion: Expanded proven program to all 95 counties
  • TN Suicide Prevention Network:Expanded regional directors to increase coverage and boosted training in suicide prevention
  • Youth and Young adult Mental Health Awareness and Promotion: Funding granted to three separate programs that reached more than 11,000 individuals