MINNEAPOLIS – Sen. Al Franken visited Elizabeth Hall Elementary School on February 19, 2013 to discuss the importance of expanding access to critical mental health services for students.
Last month, Franken introduced the Mental Health in Schools bill, which would authorize funding for grants to schools and community mental health centers to work with community-based organizations to expand access to mental health services for students. Minneapolis Public Schools works closely with Hennepin County Children's Mental Health Collaborative and the Washburn Center for Children.
On Tuesday, Franken met with Hall Elementary School staff, as well as mental health advocates from Hennepin County and MPS, to learn more about Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) relationships with public agencies to provide
services to children. Franken said the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December cast new light on the issue of mental health, but warned against stigmatizing mental illness.
“The vast majority of people who suffer from mental illness are no more violent than the general population,” Franken said. “In fact, they are more often victims of violence … We want to make sure people are treated and diagnosed – the earlier the better.”
Hall Elementary staff members shared concerns about caseloads and the lengthy period of time it takes to evaluate a child who is showing signs of a mental illness. School counselors, social workers and psychologists said often families and children must wait up to six weeks to receive services.
Before meeting with the panel, Sen. Franken read to a kindergarten class as part of “I Love to Read Month.”