Franken highlights mental care in school safety discussion - New York News

Franken highlights mental care in school safety discussion

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EAGAN, Minn. -

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken met with about a dozen specialists and education officials at an Eagan middle school to discuss ways to ensure school safety on Monday.

The first-term Democrat is also held a press conference Monday at the school to discuss the issue, and he put a particular emphasis on mental health care.

Franken says student safety starts with identifying mental health issues early on and getting treatment; however, Franken said Minnesota currently ranks 48th in the country when it comes to the ratio of counselors to students.

A specialist at the meeting told FOX 9 News that at any given time, 20 percent of school children are diagnosed with a mental health condition; however, only one fifth of those are likely to get treatment. Yet, by placing mental health professionals inside schools, that number goes up to 85 percent.

On Monday, Franken said he would like to see at a mental health professional in all Minnesota schools.

"You can catch these kinds of mental illnesses early and treat it so it doesn't grow into something where you have somebody becoming a shooter," he explained.

Franken, a member of the Senate's education committee, plans to bring the suggestions from the discussion back to Washington while highlighting a few Minnesota practices he believes could be applied nationally.

Franken's office says he has pursued measures to increase the number of school counselors, psychologists and social workers and to prevent school bullying.

Franken is entering the last two years of his first term, and will be up for reelection in 2014.


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