Representative Ed Lewis's Capitol Report
Legislature Provides Funding Increase to Bright Flight Program
Thanks to new funding allocated by the General Assembly, thousands of additional students will receive scholarship assistance through the state’s Bright Flight program. For the first time in its history, the state will award scholarship money to students scoring in the 4th and 5th percentile for the first time in the program’s history.
Bright Flight has historically awarded scholarships to students scoring in the top 3 percent of ACT test takers. Statutory provisions require those students must be fully funded at $3,000 per year, before any payments are made to the students scoring in the 4th and 5th percentiles. However, this year the House and Senate approved an additional $3.5 million in funding for the program for the current fiscal year. With this, class of 2022 seniors scoring a 30 on the ACT will be eligible for an award of up to $1,000 this year.
Any Class of 2018 to Class of 2021 seniors who also scored a 30 on their ACT, may be eligible as well. Bright Flight is a renewable scholarship for students who maintain eligibility for up to 10 semesters or until a student completes their bachelor’s degree, whichever occurs first. Students in the 4th and 5th percentiles who have maintained eligibility and are still enrolled at a Missouri college or university will be eligible for an award, also up to $1,000, this year.
“This type of funding increase is exciting,” said the interim commissioner of higher education. “However, we need help from both our colleges and universities, and from these eligible students in order to make these payments happen.”
The Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (MDHEWD) needs to know where these eligible students are currently enrolled in order to issue the scholarships to their student accounts. The best way to help the department understand this information is for all Class of 2018-2022 seniors who scored a 30 on their ACT to log on to the Missouri State Student Financial Aid Portal and to update their number one school choice to their current college or university. The MDHEWD will also be reaching out to potentially eligible students as well as institutions to ask for their help in communicating with their students that fit these eligibility requirements.
Students can find the link to the Student Portal at journeytocollege.mo.gov or go directly to the site at https://web.dhewd.mo.gov/studentportal/. Students who have not logged on in recent months may be asked to reset their passwords. From the homepage of the portal, users can select the “My School Choices” from the top menu bar. They’ll need to select the academic year 2022-2023, and then select the school in which they’ll be enrolled this year from the dropdown selection, hitting “Add school” and then “Save” before navigating from that page.
State Unemployment Rate Drops to Historic Low
Missouri once again received good news as the latest jobs report shows Missouri’s unemployment rate has hit a record low. The state unemployment rate fell to 2.8 percent in June, which is the lowest rate in Missouri since the data series began in 1976.
Missouri was previously at 3.1 percent unemployment for the month of May but saw non-farm payroll employment increase by 5,300 jobs from May to June. That increase dropped the unemployment rate by three-tenths of a percent. Compared to last year at the same time, Missouri has seen an increase of 65,500 jobs. The June 2021 unemployment rate was 4.4, which is 1.6 percentage points higher than the current rate. Missouri’s unemployment rate has been at or below the national rate for the last five years.
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Now Available in Missouri
Missourians suffering a mental health, suicide, or substance use crisis can now dial 9-8-8 to receive compassionate, accessible care and support. The 988 number routes callers to the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
During the 2022 legislative session, the Missouri House and Senate approved approximately $30.5 million in funding to implement the new 988 Crisis Hotline. The governor signed that funding into law, and the new system officially began operation on July 16.
"The launch of the 988 crisis line will establish a more streamlined and effective resource for Missourians in behavioral health crisis," Gov. Parson said. He added, "We know that when individuals are experiencing crisis the sooner we can connect them to support and provide assistance the better. The launch of 988 is an important step in addressing the mental health crisis and saving lives."
The 988 line will be the first step to engage individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. There are seven crisis centers in Missouri responsible for answering 988 contacts for the state. The trained crisis specialists at each center will listen, work to understand how the individual’s problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources. Crisis specialists will also have the ability to dispatch mobile crisis response teams for additional crisis response wherever the crisis is occurring in the community and based on the needs of the person.
The director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health said the department is “seizing this opportunity to advance current crisis services towards an evidence-based care continuum prepared to deliver high-quality behavioral health services statewide. Providing consistent crisis care and support will be integral to reducing the burden on and misuse of law enforcement/emergency response and other public health services.”
While 988 is a national initiative, it is up to each state to ensure crisis services are available to anyone, anywhere, and anytime. After nearly two years of planning and preparation, Missouri’s 988 centers are prepared and ready to answer the projected 253,000 contacts (calls, texts, and chats) expected in the first year of the 988 implementation.
Missourians dealing with a crisis who need immediate help can reach out by calling or texting 988.
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