On January 31, 2013 Senator Al Franken (D-MN) announced the introduction of the Mental Health in Schools Act, a bill designed to make mental health treatment accessible for students. This bill would facilitate the relationship between schools and community mental health centers in order to improve access to care.
Senator Franken believes that attending to the mental and emotional needs of children is just as important as keeping them safe from physical injury and illness. "Healthy kids grow into healthy adults, and if we're able to catch and address mental health issues early, we can help kids become productive members of society. My Mental Health in Schools Act will help make sure that kids in need get access to the mental health treatment they deserve," said Senator Franken at a press conference to introduce the bill.
The bill will be introduced shortly in the House of Representatives by Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA). Congresswoman Napolitano emphasized the significance the bill holds with regard to education of students, parents, administrators, and media in an effort to de-stigmatize the issue of mental illness, as well as to help let those suffering a mental illness know that it is always okay to ask for help. Representative Napolitano further explained how the Mental Health in Schools Act would help achieve parity and equality for students, "We plan to introduce the House version of the bill shortly to ensure that we elevate mental health to achieve parity with physical health."
The Mental Health in Schools Act would establish a grant program that would:
This bill has the potential to drastically improve the lives of children in schools by creating awareness of mental illness, reducing stigma, providing early intervention, prevention, and education.
More information on the bill, including a full list of organizations in support of the bill, is available HERE.