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By Nathaniel Z. Counts, JD, MHA Senior Policy Director

MHA appreciates your tremendous federal advocacy to stop the House and Senate health care bills. Thanks to you, we’ve been successful so far and people still have coverage – hopefully we can keep it up.

We don’t want you to think that all the action is at the federal level though. Your advocacy can also make a profound difference in your local community, and a policy opportunity to improve the mental health of children in schools is just becoming available.

Last year, Congress passed The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), replacing the old No Child Left Behind policies. While this might not have made major waves in the mental health community, it contained a lot of good stuff – more chances to improve student mental health and more chances for community members to get involved. MHA and its affiliates have been working at the federal and state levels to make sure every opportunity is taken to promote mental health, but many of the most exciting opportunities are actually at the local level.

To support mental health advocates, MHA partnered with Healthy Schools Campaign, Trust for America’s Health, and Alliance for a Healthier Generation to create a guide for how to take advantage of the new opportunities in ESSA implementation. The guide is VERY comprehensive, but don’t let that deter you – a perfect first step would just be contacting your local Department of Education to learn about where your state is in the ESSA implementation process and how you can support their efforts. Then, even if you have a chance to advocate for just one recommendation in the guide, it could have a huge impact on the mental health of kids in your community.

As always, MHA could not be more thankful for your advocacy, and do not hesitate to reach out to me with policy questions! You can reach me at