Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tampa Tribune: HR 2646 ‘Good For The Country’

Ed Board Urges: “Confront Our Mental Health Crisis” Following Shooting in Colorado Springs  

For Immediate Release: December 1, 2015
Contact: Murphy Press 202.225.2301
(Washington, D.C.) –The Tampa Tribune calls on Congress to reach across party lines and advance Congressman Tim Murphy’s landmark Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, H.R. 2646, in an editorial board endorsement published today. The editors write how the crisis mental health legislation will increase funding for brain research, promote tele-psychiatry and increase the number of psychiatric beds by modifying the antiquated “Institutions For Mental Diseases” exclusion in Medicaid, allowing for more patients to receive mental health treatment before a tragedy occurs.  

Editorial: Confront Our Mental Health Crisis 
Editorial Board
December 1, 2015
President Obama obviously is going to push another futile effort to enact stronger gun laws in the aftermath of last week’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. His time would be better spent working with Congress on mental health legislation, where progress could be made.
But that won’t happen if Obama’s initial reaction is any indication. He immediately focused on guns after the shooting that killed three people, including a police officer: “We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.”
Some revised regulations may be justified, but new gun laws are not going to get anywhere with the country divided over their necessity and the Republican Congress opposed to them. 
In contrast, consensus might be reached on a critical issue related to mass shootings: mental health.
Yet Obama and the Democrats, so far, have not rallied to adopt the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act proposed by Rep. Tom Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican.
In many of the nation’s mass shootings, the killers were mentally deranged. There are few cases of average citizens suddenly going on a rampage because they have access to guns.
The suspect in the Colorado shooting is a case in point. He was an eccentric loner who babbled incoherently about government plots.
Murphy, who visited the Tribune editorial board last year with U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis to talk about the bill, told us he began studying the nation’s flawed mental health system after Adam Lanza gunned down 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Lanza was mentally ill but refused to take his medication.
Mental illness was a factor in the shootings at the Aurora movie theater; Virginia Tech; the Tucson shooting that severely wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords; Columbine and many others.
The proposal by Murphy, a psychologist, would lift a 16-bed cap in cases where Medicaid funds the care. It would promote “tele-psychiatry” to connect pediatricians and other physicians with mental health professionals in areas where patients have no or limited access to such care. It would increase brain research funding.
The legislation would encourage, with increased grants, states to adopt standards to allow for the involuntary commitment of the mentally ill who are a threat to others.
Murphy also would reform the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, bringing more accountability and seeking to ensure tax dollars were spent on effective therapies.
Improved mental health care won’t eliminate the threat of mass shootings. Racism, religious prejudice and religious zealotry, domestic violence, political extremism and many other factors contribute to the violence. But providing treatment for those with serious mental issues would undoubtedly prevent at least some individuals from reaching a murderous breaking point.
And as Murphy points out, improving mental health treatment also would reduce the rates of suicide, crime and homelessness.
Washington’s partisan divide shouldn’t stop members of both parties from seeing that the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act would be good for the country.
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