Earlier this week the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, What Should America Do About Gun Violence? At the hearing, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) shared a story of the impact that mental health services provided in schools have had on his constituents in Minnesota. He went on to say that learning of the initial need led him to want to do more to ensure access for those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness but still lack the access to treatment and services. Following the hearing, Franken introduced the Mental Health in Schools Act to expand access to mental health services in schools by establishing a grant program to support schools that work with community-based organizations providing these services.
The bill authorizes $200 million in grant funding per year over five years, and eligible schools may apply for up to $1 million per grant year, based on the size of their student body population. The grant program will also provide assistance to schools to train staff, volunteers, families, and other members of the community to recognize the signs of behavioral health problems in students and refer them for appropriate services. Finally, SAMHSA will be required to develop standardized quality measures and participating schools are required to collect and submit data on their programs and outcomes.
The Mental Health in Schools Act is cosponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Max Baucus (D-MT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Jon Tester (D-MT). In addition, the bill has received broad support from the mental health, education, law enforcement, and child welfare communities. Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, plans to introduce companion legislation in the House in the near future.