Biden announces $100 million in new mental health funding

Washington — After meeting with Newtown residents Tuesday afternoon, Vice President Joe Biden announced the administration will spend $100 million on new mental health initiatives.

“The fact that less than half of children and adults with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need is unacceptable,” Biden said. “The president and I have made it a priority to do everything we can to make it easier to access mental health services, and today’s announcements by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture build on that commitment.”

Half the money, or about $50 million, will go to new grants for community health centers to help people with problems with mental illness or addiction.

The rest of the money would be spent to build new mental health facilities in rural areas.

The administration, however, has been thwarted in an effort the White House proposed after Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School nearly a year ago.

President Obama asked Congress for $130 million for a new initiative that would address several barriers that may prevent people from accessing help. The initiative proposes to train teachers to recognize signs of mental illness and refer students to mental health services when needed. The money would also be used to train an additional 5,000 mental health professionals and give grants to states to implement innovative strategies to help young people, ages 16 to 25, with mental health or substance abuse issues.

But Congress has so far declined to fund the program.

Newtown residents invited to the announcement at the White House for the announcement included Nicole Hockley, spokeswoman for Sandy Hook Promise whose son Dylan was one of the victims, and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse was also slain. Bill and Katy Sherlach, the husband and daughter of Mary Sherlach — a school psychologist who also died in the Sandy Hook shootings, were also at the event.

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