U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., on Thursday unveiled a $1 billion Mental Health in Schools Act, a bill that would fund $200 million in grants annually for five years to expand access to mental health services in schools.
Franken, in a phone conference with Minnesota reporters, said the bill was inspired by the December school massacre in Newtown, Conn., by an apparently deranged gunman.
Franken and other lawmakers have cited Newtown and other recent mass shootings to highlight the difficulty of obtaining mental health treatment.
Joining Franken was Minnesota mental health expert Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He also enlisted Katie Johnson, a mom from Shoreview whose young son’s life has been transformed by in-school counseling.
Franken said the bill could address the poor ratio of school counselors to students in Minnesota. The state currently ranks 48th in the nation, with one counselor for every 780 students. He said only one in five children in the U.S. who have mental health issues get seen or treated.
Under his bill, eligible schools could apply for up to $1 million per grant year, based on the size of their student population.
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