In January, President Obama unveiled a proposal to improve the identification and treatment of mental disorders and curb mass gun violence in this country. The proposal, which came out of a commissioned review led by Vice President Joe Biden, is broken down into four parts: mental health, the availability of firearms and ammunition, law enforcement, and school safety. The proposal includes both legislative actions that would need to be acted on by Congress and executive actions that will be taken immediately.
The president’s proposal contains more than a dozen recommendations made by AFSP to the vice president and the administration’s commission last month. The letter recommended action in four specific areas: Education, Outreach and Training; Access to Affordable Mental Health Care; Safe Schools; and Means Restriction.
Of utmost importance to AFSP, the president plans to finalize regulations under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which will require large group health insurance and Medicaid plans to provide coverage for mental or substance-use disorders on par with coverage offered for physical ailments. (The Affordable Care Act currently requires all new small group and individual plans to cover mental health and substance abuse services.) The Obama administration also issued a letter to state health officials insisting that Medicaid plans must comply with mental health parity requirements. Mental health parity for all Americans has been a priority for AFSP for many years.
As part of his proposal, the president has recommended to Congress to provide financing to expand mental health programs for young people; provide $30 million in grants to states to help schools develop emergency response plans; and provide an additional $20 million to help expand the National Violent Death Reporting System, which tracks violent deaths across the nation, from 18 states to 50 states. These are all priorities for AFSP.
The president also encouraged gun owners to “take responsibility for keeping their guns safe,” and to promoting “common-sense gun safety measures like the use of gun safes and trigger locks, separate storage of guns and ammunition, and the reporting of lost and stolen weapons to law enforcement.”
“Over half of the more than 38,000 Americans who take their own lives this year will use a firearm. We have to do everything we can to limit access to firearms by someone who is depressed, suicidal, and struggling with thoughts of self-harm," AFSP Executive Director Robert Gebbia said. “Research has shown that in 90 percent of these suicides there will be an underlying, diagnosable mental illness, so early identification and treatment is essential."
For more information on the president’s proposal, please visit www.whitehouse.gov.