Provisions of new law on arms and mental health

The forged gun protection law was introduced as the first federal law in 30 years to combat the rise in gun violence through heated bilateral talks in the Senate. But what has gone unnoticed is one of its main goals: to improve mental health services.

News coverage focused on legislation to improve background checks for young shoppers, encouraging states to enforce their own “red flag laws” and closing “boyfriend loopholes” (a law barring those convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun). Gives).

But less attention has been paid to mental health programs that will receive the lion’s share of the estimated 13 13 billion in law enforcement.

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

Combining these initiatives into law, led by a small group of senators after Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, was the result of the Republicans ’insistence shooting in elementary school that any gun reform effort would also have to address my mental health.

“We do not believe that the epidemic of gun violence in the United States can be solved through the prism of mental health. But we have an agreement between Democrats and Republicans to spend billions more on mental health treatment, especially in vulnerable communities. Let’s seize that opportunity, “said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), one of the key proponents of reform.

While mental health advocates are happy with the initiative, they also express concern that the notion that people with mental illness are responsible for gun violence persists when research shows that it is not.

Only 3% to 5% of acts of violence are committed by people who have a serious mental illness, and conversely, a person living with a mental illness is much more likely to be a victim of violence.

“It’s a very mixed emotion that we thought of bringing them together,” said Hannah Vesolsky, director of advocacy at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We need to invest in mental health, but we know that mental health is not a direct cause of a person being violent.”

What does the measure contain?

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the total cost of the bill is $ 13 billion, a large portion of which will be used to raise funds for existing programs that will expand its mental health and school safety services, including $ 1 billion in two programs over five years. Increase the number of mental health counselors in schools.

Other assignments include:

  • চার 80 million over four years for a pediatric mental health care access program that enables pediatricians to provide mental health services through telehealth. An additional $ 60 million over four years will go towards training primary care physicians to provide mental health services to young people.
  • চার 250 million over four years to increase community mental health services block grants to states to help fill gaps in the local mental health system.
  • The AWARE project will add $ 240 million over four years, with grants to various behavioral and mental health organizations.

The new law provides up to $ 8.6 billion in 10 years to help build community mental health clinics in each state.

Such clinics, which already exist in 10 states as part of a pilot Medicaid program, should serve anyone with a need for mental health or substance abuse. States must apply to participate in the program, which begins in 2024.

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

It is difficult to know how effective these programs will be in improving mental health outcomes, says Marissa Domino, a health economist and director of the Center for Health Information and Research at Arizona State University, because not all programs have been evaluated or necessarily built-in. .

“There are many small opportunities in this bill, but overall it’s hard to know” whether it will help improve 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 usually the case, since government funding should be planned in advance year after year. But it also raises questions about how quickly mental health programs can be improved.

Will it stop gun violence?

It depends on how gun violence is defined, Swanson said.

More than half of gun deaths in the country are suicides, and this bill could help reduce those deaths.

The bill also emphasizes the “precautionary law,” which has been shown to reduce suicide rates. Such legislation, now in 19 states and the District of Columbia, allows family members, police or doctors to apply to the court for temporary removal of a gun from people they fear may be in danger for up to a year. Risk of harming themselves or others.

For example, Swanson led a research project that looked at how a red flag policy works in Connecticut, where his team estimated that one suicide was prevented for every 10 to 20 gun recall actions.

But experts acknowledge that the bill’s mental health components can’t do much to prevent gun violence from mass shootings, such as the 4th of July parade at Buffalo Grocery Store or Highland Park.

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

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