May 16, 2024
It’s a Crisis: Addressing the Enduring Mental, Emotional, and Social Impact of COVID-19


May 16, 2024 – The COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the mental, emotional, and social well-being of students across the country. A new report from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy, commissioned by Chiefs for Change, examines how five diverse school districts utilized federal relief funds to implement initiatives supporting students’ mental health needs in the wake of this crisis.

The study found districts took varied approaches, dedicating between 5-10% of their relief funding to hire counselors, implement social-emotional learning curricula, provide staff training, establish student support teams and collect data to inform decision-making. However, districts faced challenges integrating new staff, delivering adequate training, and robustly evaluating program effectiveness.

“The pandemic’s toll on our students’ mental health has been profound and cannot be overstated,” said Robert Runcie, CEO of Chiefs for Change. “This report highlights the critical efforts underway in schools to address an issue that has reached crisis levels. Districts rightly prioritized supporting the whole child by utilizing federal relief funds for counseling, training, and programs to meet students’ mental, emotional, and social needs.”

The report emphasized the key role of mental health counselors, which principals consistently cited as having a high impact. As one district leader stated, “We had a young lady in crisis who had a plan to commit suicide…but it was averted because of the support system we had set up. And so that’s a good example of what we’ve put in place has saved a life.”

With federal relief funds expiring in September 2024, districts are grappling with how to sustain these vital initiatives. “Our members have expressed an unwavering commitment to prioritizing student well-being moving forward,” said Runcie. “Ensuring access to mental health support will be crucial as we continue addressing the pandemic’s lasting impacts on our children and youth.”

The full report, including detailed case studies of each district’s approach, data collection methods, and future spending plans, is available at

About Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit bipartisan network of state and district education chiefs dedicated to excellence and equity for all students. Our members share a zeal for implementing forward-thinking policies and practices to prepare all students for success.