Sen. Blunt: Reauthorize US mental health agency

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"Federal focus – and the dollars that follow – must facilitate proactive and cohesive collaboration across other agencies that work with the mentally ill and their caregivers," Blunt wrote.

The piece was published in the Kansas City Star.

SAMHSA is a branch of the federal Health department. Established in 1992, the agency studies mental health issues and provides grants for behavioral healthcare delivery.

The Newtown shooting has sparked a national debate on how to improve mental healthcare in the United States. Lawmakers who focus on mental health issues say the time is ripe to put more federal resources on the problem.

The Congressional Mental Health Caucus has 83 members, 74 of whom are Democrats.

Caucus chairwoman Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) is pushing a bill to support new mental health services in schools.

She blamed Republicans for prohibiting new, targeted federal spending. None have signed on to support her legislation.

“My colleagues are not willing to put forth anything that has an earmark,” she said, “and this is an earmark thing.”