Legislators and mental health advocates argued Friday that additional spending for mental health services in schools should be part of the state's response to the Connecticut school shooting.

Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, joined by officials of Minnesota's National Association on Mental Illness and the Mental Health Association, called for additional funding for mental health services in schools, better training for professionals in dealing with psychosis and more help for adolescents suffering their first psychotic episode.

While much of the Legislature's response to the December shooting has been a debate over gun control, Sheran said legislators should be moved by such tragedies to focus more attention on mental health issues.

"I think we're complicit in the violence if we don't intervene," she said.

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed additional funding for what is known as school-linked mental health services so that more students can receive help. Sheran said her bill would call for $10 million in additional spending, $2.5 million more than the governor proposed.

The bill also calls for additional funding for training mental health professionals and treating adolescents who suffer a first psychotic episode, but those amounts have not yet been determined, Sheran said.

The officials emphasized that a tiny percentage of people with severe mental illness resort to violence, and cautioned against stigmatizing people based on those isolated acts.


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