Access To Mental Health Care, Increased Funding Key In Emerging Strategies To Curb Gun Violence

As President Barack Obama vowed to restart the "national conversation" on gun issues, he included the need to improve access to mental health services among the central elements of this discussion. Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll concluded that Americans believe that increasing federal spending on mental health screenings and services is among the steps more likely to deter mass shootings than banning the sale of assault weapons.

The New York Times: Obama Vows Fast Action In New Push For Gun Control
President Obama declared on Wednesday that he would make gun control a "central issue" as he opens his second term, promising to submit broad new firearm proposals to Congress no later than January and to employ the full power of his office to overcome deep-seated political resistance. ... Having avoided a politically difficult debate over guns for four years, Mr. Obama vowed to restart a national conversation about their role in American society, the need for better access to mental health services and the impact of exceedingly violent images in the nation's culture (Shear, 12/19).

Los Angeles Times: White House Task Force To Tackle Gun Violence
Announcing his first steps in response to the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, President Obama on Wednesday charged a task force with drawing up a list of proposals to reduce gun violence across the nation and urged Congress to hold votes on gun control legislation early in the new year. ... Obama acknowledged the challenging politics of gun control. He emphasized that the task force would look beyond stiffer gun laws for solutions, including measures that address cultural influences and mental health services (Hennessey, 12/19).

The Hill: Poll: Americans See Police, Mental Health Care More Effective Than Assault Weapons Ban
Americans believe that increasing the police presence at schools and upping federal spending on mental health screenings and services are more likely to deter mass shootings than banning the sale of assault weapons, according to a poll from Gallup released Wednesday. More than half of those surveyed said more police and mental health services would be "very effective," with nearly nine in 10 saying doing so would be at least "somewhat effective" in preventing gun crime. Some 78 percent also said decreasing the depictions of violence on TV and in movies and video games would help to prevent mass shootings (Sink, 12/19).

The Hill: Advocates For Mental Health Have Momentum After Conn. Massacre
The mental-health community has begun a major lobbying effort for federal action in response to last Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Major advocacy groups are already meeting with Capitol Hill offices and formulating an agenda that they say has forward momentum as a result of the new public dialogue on mental illness. "The field as a whole has agreed. There is a lot of interest among other national organizations in getting something done," said Rebecca Farley with the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (Viebeck and Baker, 12/20).

CT Mirror: Welcome, And Wary Of, A Focus On Mental Health
The calls to improve the mental health care system in the wake of last week's elementary-school shooting are welcome, and worrisome, for people like Kate Mattias. "The good news is there's attention being paid," said Mattias, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Connecticut. "On the other hand, it's attention wrought by a terrible, terrible incident." She and other advocates have spent years trying to counter the perception that people with mental illness are violent and dangerous; in fact, research suggests that they're more likely than the general public to be victims of violent crime. And people who work in the mental health system are wary of potential policy changes that are based on the notion that people with mental illness are violent (Becker, 12/19).

Meanwhile, KHN looks at a section of the health law that deals with gun violence.

Kaiser Health News: The Gun Lobby's Favorite Part Of The Health Law
Did you know the Affordable Care Act stands up for gun rights? The "Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights" section (page 19 in this PDF) says the health law’s wellness programs can't require participants to give information about guns in the house. It also keeps the Department of Health and Human Services from collecting data on gun use and stops insurance companies from denying coverage or raising premiums on members because of gun use (Hancock, 12/20).

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