Franken bill aims to give students more access to mental health care

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Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., is outlining the details of his new legislation aimed at increasing student access to mental health care at schools nationwide.

Franken on Thursday introduced the Mental Health in Schools Act, which would provide schools with up to $1 million in grant money each year to partner with local organizations to provide mental health services to students, MinnPost reported. The cost: about $1 billion over five years.

In a summary of the bill, Franken notes that one in five youth in the United States experience mental illness, and 70 percent of adolescents with mental health problems do not receive care. And over the last two decades, suicide rates have doubled among Americans between the ages of 10 and 14.

Franken on his website notes that Minnesota ranks 48th in the nation in school counselor-to-student ratios, with one counselor for every 780 students.

Franken has also said a renewed national debate about how to prevent gun violence has spurred his interest in doing more about mental health treatment for youths.

Franken cautioned that he did not intend to stigmatize mental illness, Talking Points Memo reported. "The vast majority of people with mental illness are no more violent than the rest of the population. In fact, they are more likely to be the victims of violence."

To see Franken talk with experts called to testify on his bill, click here.

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