Laker Ron Artest lobbies for mental health funds on Capitol Hill

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Kitty Felde/KPCC

Laker Ron Artest and Congresswoman Grace Napolitano

Basketball and politics are team sports. Today in Washington, D.C., Lakers forward Ron Artest teamed up with a Southern California congresswoman to rally for mental health services in schools.

A bill sponsored by Democratic Congresswoman Grace Napolitano would set aside $200 million in competitive grants to put licensed mental health professionals in schools. The congresswoman from Montebello says she doesn’t have any Republican co-sponsors. But she’s not giving up.

"Heck, no," she says. "We just started."

Laker Ron Artest raffled off his NBA championship ring – and raised more than half a million dollars for mental health services. He says he was lucky there was a counselor at his New York City high school.

"I need to send a big message," he says. "It wasn’t that I gave the ring away. The ring has superhuman powers, actually. It’s working!"

Ten years ago, Napolitano found enough money for a school counselor pilot project. Now mental health counselors work at nearly a dozen Southern California schools.

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