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Addressing Newtown tragedy, Franken leads meeting on mental health intervention

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U.S. Sen. Al Franken held a meeting at the St. Paul offices of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Saturday to say he plans on introducing a bill that will expand funding for crisis intervention teams, mental health courts and law enforcement training, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Franken said mental illness was an important issue to address in the criminal justice system in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.

Franken said in the meeting attended by mental health advocates, state officials and members of law enforcement that there was a lot of talk about the shootings at Sandy Hook, but he "felt it was unfortunately just kind of a talking point."

"My job as a senator is to find out both find out what we're doing in our state that I can take to Washington, and also what are needs are here in Minnesota," Franken said.

He also noted that reform is needed in how the justice system handles cases involving mental health patients, KSTP-TV reports.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek also said at the meeting that mental illness has long gone unaddressed in the criminal justice system, and that "jails have become that place in which those with mental illness wait."

Stanek said he wants to find a way to work with Franken "to find some other options available to these folks to get them to treatment."

See KSTP-TV's report on Franken's meeting below.

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