ROSEVILLE, Minn. - Senator Al Franken introduced a bill on Thursday that would provide federal grants to school districts to raise the level of access for students needing counseling services.
Minnesota ranks 48th among U.S. states providing counseling services for students, according to Franken.
"I always say both counseling and psychiatry services are really lacking in the rural areas," said Katie Newton, Ph.D., L.P., who treats youngsters with mental issues at Pediatric Consultation Specialists of Plymouth. "The Twin Cities, in my experience, has been fairly good in terms of availability and access. I think that tends to get less and less as you get further outside of the metro."
Tom Tilberry is a former state legislator and now counselor at Roseville Area High School.
"I use our school here as an example," said Tilberry.
He says their counselor to student ratio is about 1:400. The American School Counseling Association would say a ratio of 1:250 is preferable. However, Minnesota's average is 1:759.
Tilberry tried to remedy the issue when he was a state lawmaker. His 2007 bill was aimed at providing more funding for counseling. It passed, but the law was repealed in 2010, after school districts reached a funding crisis. Tilberry sees the issue in terms of young lives and safety.
"The relationship that that counselor has with that student really makes a huge difference because they know the person in the school. They know what to expect," said Tilberry.
Dr. Newton agreed that counseling can help. "I think it makes a huge difference. I think the stigma about mental health has gotten less. It is obviously still there and we want to work on that, but kids have the same, similar mental health problems as adults do."
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