Sen. Franken Introduces Bill to Expand Access to Mental Health Care in Schools
Senator introduces Mental Health in Schools Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. [01/31/13]—Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken introduced the Mental Health in Schools Act to ensure that schools provide access to critical mental health treatment for kids who need and deserve these services.
Sen. Franken’s bill would authorize funding for grants to schools and community mental health centers to work with community-based organizations to expand access to mental health services for students. It will soon be introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.).
"Addressing the mental and emotional needs of our kids is just as important as keeping them safe from physical injury and illness," said Sen. Franken. "Healthy kids grow into healthy adults, and if we're able to catch and address mental health issues early, we can help kids become productive members of society. My Mental Health in Schools Act will help make sure that kids in need get access to the mental health treatment they deserve."
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“Thank you so very much, Senator Franken,” said Rep. Napolitano. “We laud your proactive leadership in caring for our youngsters and look forward to continuing to work with the Senate. We plan to introduce the House version of the bill shortly to ensure that we elevate mental health to achieve parity with physical health. We must continue to educate the students, parents, administrators, and media to de-stigmatize the issue of mental illness and let those hurting know that it is always okay to ask for help."
Sen. Franken’s bill has received broad support from mental health professionals, parents, educators, and law enforcement. Today, he was joined on a conference call by Sue Abderholden, the Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota chapter and Katie Johnson, a mom from Shoreview, Minnesota whose young son’s life has been transformed by in-school counseling.
“If there was one thing that could be done to dramatically improve the lives of children with mental illnesses, it would be expanding mental health services in our schools,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota. "Families don't have to take off of work for multiple visits and the child has less time out of school because they just walk down the hall to get the treatment. Sen. Franken’s bill goes a long way toward making this possible.”
“My son’s access to in-school counseling has been our door to hope that Cameron will have a successful life at home and at school,” said Katie Johnson. “I believe every child—and family—should have access to the same mental health treatment opportunities my family has had and I’m thankful to Sen. Franken for introducing legislation that will help make that possible."
During yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing on gun control, Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson commended Sen. Franken’s bill and agreed that treatment in schools will help communities. You can view the video of Chief Johnson’s exchange with Sen. Franken HERE.
The Mental Health in Schools Act is cosponsored in the Senate by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mary Ladrieu (D-La.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
The Mental Health in Schools Act would establish a grant program that would:
- Expand access to mental health services in schools;
- Support schools that work with community-based organizations to expand access to mental health services for students;
- Provide assistance through grants to schools to train staff, volunteers, families, and other members of the community to recognize the signs of behavioral health problems in students and refer them for appropriate services; and
- Authorize $200 million in grant funding per year over five years, and eligible schools may apply for up to $1 million per grant year, based on the size of their student population.
The Mental Health in Schools Act has been endorsed by more than 90 organizations in Minnesota and across the country. More information on the bill, including a full list of endorsing organizations, is available HERE.