Federal legislation that would strengthen mental health programs in criminal justice is being blocked by two senators who believe that states should govern how mentally ill people are treated, sponsor Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “There is pressure from law enforcement groups and attorneys from within his state for him to not block the bill,” Franken said of one of the senators.
The two who oppose the legislation are Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) Mike Lee (R-UT). The bill authorizes $40 million to extend funding for mental health courts for five years, creates more crisis intervention teams to work closely with police, and offers veterans better screening for mental health problems stemming from trauma and chemical dependency. Police academies would be able to strengthen training programs for new officers on effective responses to mentally ill people they encounter on the street, and increased screening services would be used to better evaluate the mental health of new inmates. In June, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill by a voice vote.