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Sen. Al Franken Introduces Mental Health in Schools Bill

Most of the policy debate following the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has centered on gun control. But President Barack Obama also proposed a number of steps to bolster mental health services in schools—and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has introduced a bill that also seeks to beef up early intervention services.

Franken's bill, put forth last week, would call for a $200 million, comprehensive competitive grant program. Schools could apply for $1 million grants in order to expand access to mental health care services, partner with community-based mental health organizations, and train staff, volunteers, families and others to recognize the signs of mental illness. Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., is backing a similar proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives. More on the bill here.

"Early intervention treatment can be the key," he said. "We know from research that early detection and treatment of mental illness not only helps students reduce the symptoms of their illness, it improves their attendance, it improves their grades."

Some of those ideas are similar to the recommendations on bolstering mental health services in schools proposed last month by the Obama administration. Obama is also seeking new funding for "mental health first-aid" and community partnerships, for example.

One possible roadblock to Franken's proposal? It would authorize new funding. That may be a tough sell in a Congress bent on cutting costs.

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