Gun protection ‘wrapped up in the mental health bill’: a look at health provisions

The gun protection law was touted as the first federal law in 30 years to tackle growing gun violence through heated bilateral discussions in the Senate last month. But what often falls under the radar is the new law’s focus on improving mental health services

News coverage focused primarily on legislation to improve background checks for young shoppers, encourage states to enforce their own “red flag laws,” and close “boyfriend loopholes.” Less attention has been paid to mental health programs for which an estimated $ 13 billion has been allocated.

“It’s wrapped up in a mental health bill like the gun safety bill,” said Jeffrey Swanson, a psychiatry professor at Duke University School of Medicine, who studies the intersection of gun violence and mental illness.

A pair of these initiatives into legislation led by a small group of senators after a May 24 school shooting in Uwald, Texas, resulted in Republicans insisting that any gun reform effort should address mental health, even as Democrats rejected a connection. Between the two concerns.

“We don’t think you can solve America’s epidemic of gun violence through the prism of mental health. But if we have an agreement between Democrats and Republicans to spend billions upon billions of dollars on mental health care, especially for vulnerable communities, let’s take that opportunity, “said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Con.), A keynote speaker, while layout. The structure of the bill at a press conference on June 13.

While mental health advocates are happy Congress is approving new funding for their cause, they have expressed concern that it would perpetuate the notion that people with mental health disorders are primarily responsible for gun violence, although research shows that is not the case. Only 3% to 5% of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression, commit violent acts. People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than members of the general population.

“It’s a very mixed emotion when we think of putting these together,” said Hannah Vesolovsky, chief advocacy officer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We need to invest in mental health, yet we know that mental health is not a direct cause of a person being violent.”

A central question about this higher level of investment is whether it can make a difference in the nation’s struggle to combat gun violence. Here are the main mental health aspects of the new law

What is in the law

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the total cost of the new law will be $ 13 billion, a large portion of which will be used to raise funds to expand existing mental health and school safety service programs, including মানসিক 1 billion over five years for two programs. .

Other allocations include:

  • চার 80 million over four years for a pediatric mental health care access program that allows pediatricians to provide mental health services through telehealth. An additional $ 60 million over four years has been directed to train primary care physicians to provide mental health services to young people.
  • সাহায্য 250 million to increase the Community Mental Health Services Block grant over four years to help fill a gap in a state’s mental health system, such as creating care programs for adults and children with severe mental illness or mental disorder.
  • Over four years, $ 240 million will be added to the AWARE project, which provides grants to raise awareness of students in mental and behavioral health organizations, community groups and schools and to connect them to mental health services in their schools.
  • নতুন 150 million this year for the new 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which will launch in mid-July.

The new law provides up to $ 8.6 billion over 10 years to help build certified community behavioral health clinics in every state in the United States, requiring people to see and be treated for mental health or substance use problems regardless of their insurance coverage. States must apply to participate in the program, which begins in 2024.

Although the annual reports submitted to Congress on the pilot program show various behavioral health outcomes by state, other data show that clinics have saved money and scored well on measures such as administering antidepressant drugs to patients or employing them in alcohol-dependent treatment. However, a 2021 Government Accountability Office report found that data from these clinics were incomplete, making it difficult to evaluate their effectiveness in improving behavioral health.

How effective are these mental health programs and when will they begin?

It’s hard to know how effective the new spending will be in improving mental health, says Marissa Domino, an economist and director of the Arizona State University’s Center for Health Information and Research, because not all programs have received additional funding. Able to function or evaluate.

“There’s a lot of little scope in this bill, but overall it’s hard to say whether it will be effective in improving mental health,” Domino said.

Some funding will start this year and last four or five years. Other spending streams may not start until 2024. This is common because government funding must be planned years in advance. But it also raises questions about how quickly mental health programs can be improved.

Nevertheless, advocates and researchers stressed that more money moving toward mental health would probably be beneficial because programs across the United States have been drastically under-funded.

Will it prevent gun violence?

It depends on how you define gun violence, Swanson said.

Suicides account for more than half of all gun deaths in the United States, and it is possible that this law will help reduce those deaths.

The new law provides funding for states, which could be used to implement red flag laws, which have been shown to reduce suicide rates. Such laws, now in 19 states and the District of Columbia, allow family members, police or doctors to temporarily remove guns for one year from people they fear run the risk of harming themselves or others.

Swanson, for example, led a research project in Connecticut analyzing how a red-flag policy works, where his team estimated that one suicide was prevented for moving every 10 to 20 guns.

But experts acknowledge that mental health spending can do little to stop gun violence that is manifested through mass shootings, such as at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May and during the Fourth of July Parade in the Highlands, Park, Illinois.

“Most people with mental illness are not violent,” Swanson said.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that creates in-depth journalism about health issues. KHN is one of the three major operating programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation), including policy analysis and polling. KFF is a non-profit organization that provides health information to the nation.

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