SENATE BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
SENATE, No. 2715
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
DATED: JUNE 17, 2021
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee reports favorably Senate Bill No. 2715 (1R).
This bill establishes a grant program to assist school districts in the training of school-based mental health services providers to expand the pipeline of high-quality, trained providers and address the shortages of mental health professionals in school districts. School districts that receive a grant under the program will use the funds for efforts to create and grow programs that train students who are attending graduate school to become school-based mental health services providers. School-based mental health services providers are defined under the bill as State-licensed or certified school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, or other mental health professionals qualified under State law to provide mental health services to children and adolescents.
Prior to applying for the grant program, a school district or a group of school districts seeking to participate in the program together is required to form a partnership with one or more institutions of higher education that offer graduate programs in school-based mental health fields. The partnership would allow a student enrolled in the graduate program to perform applicable fieldwork, credit hours, internships, externships, or other related training as applicable for the academic program of the student.
The Commissioner of Education will establish selection criteria for the awarding of grants under the program, including consideration of various information regarding the need for school-based mental health professionals and an increased level of student mental health services and supports. In awarding grants, priority will be given to school districts that demonstrate an unmet need for mental health services in the school community.
Under the bill, the Department of Education is required to annually apply for and use any federal grant funds or other federal assistance which may be available to be used for the grant program including, but not limited to, funds under the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, and the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.” The department may, if applicable, apply for federal grant funds or other assistance on behalf of one or more school districts approved for participation in the grant program established under the bill. Any federal grant funds awarded to the department will first be used to provide grant awards to school districts, prior to using State funds.
As reported by the committee, Senate Bill No. 2715 (1R) is identical to Assembly Bill No. 4433 (2R), which also was reported by the committee on this date.
The Office of Legislative Services concludes that this bill may result in an indeterminate increase in annual State expenditures, from federal or other State funds, to establish the program and provide grants to local school districts. The bill does not specify the number of grants that will be awarded annually or the amount of the grants, and it is unknown how many applications will be received and approved. The increase in State expenditures, excluding administrative costs, would correspond to a revenue gain for local school districts selected for grants under the bill.
The bill does not appropriate State funds for the program; however, it includes a provision requiring the Department of Education to annually apply for and use any federal grant funds or other federal assistance that may be available to be used for the grant program prior to using other State funds.