Photo Credit: APIn the anguished days following the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Barack Obama called for a renewed national focus on mental health.
His plea went nowhere in Congress. But states from South Carolina to Oregon have taken up the challenge.
At least 37 states have increased spending on mental health in the year since Adam Lanza shot dead 20 children, six school employees and his mother in Newtown, Conn. It’s not just about money, either. States are experimenting with new — and sometimes controversial — ways to raise awareness about psychological distress, to make treatment more accessible for children and adults and to keep firearms away from those struggling with mental illness.
Nevada, for instance, is launching a pilot program to screen children in secondary schools for mental health concerns. Texas not only boosted mental health funding by a record $300 million over two years, but required public school teachers and students to be trained in recognizing mental illness. Utah will require school districts to offer parents an annual seminar on mental health, including depression and suicide. Colorado established a 24-hour crisis hotline.
The new initiatives don’t make up for the more than $4 billion cut from state mental health budgets during the lean years of the recent recession. And they weren’t universal: A half-dozen states cut funding on mental health this year, including Louisiana, Maine and North Carolina.
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