Monday, April 22, 2013

APA Medical Director Comments on Gun Control and Mental Health System

While advocates of some form of gun-control legislation, particularly a mandate for more-comprehensive background checks of buyers, recently suffered a major setback when the Senate failed to muster a sufficiently large majority to pass such a bill despite widespread public support, mental health issues raised in the gun-control debate still have a pulse, according to a report in Politico newspaper yesterday.But do mental health experts and advocates think linking mental health care to guns is a winning strategy? “It wasn’t our choice to be tied to guns—it was kind of the evolution of the sentiment of the public as well as the mood of the Senate to focus on mental health as part of this debate,” said Chuck Ingoglia, of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. There was a lack of agreement among mental health groups about closely linking gun control and gun violence, particularly in the context of unmet treatment needs, said Andrew Sperling, federal legislative director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Better strategies for improving an ailing mental health system appear to lie in expanding Medicaid and in having the Department of Health and Human Services publish long-delayed regulations to implement the federal mental health parity law. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a congressional committee last week that such final regulations would be out by the end of the year—five years after the parity law passed.

Commenting on the issue for Politico, APA Medical Director James H. Scully Jr., M.D., emphasized that unless serious flaws in the system are fixed, some people will continue to get treatment in the same costly but inadequate setting they are getting it now: our jails and prisons. "It's the same old story you've been dealing with for all these decades," Scully said. As for the lengthy path that legislation to improve the mental health system will have to travel, Scully said, "We knew it would be a hard slog. In our profession, we know it takes a long time to get people to change. Therapy takes a long time. So does politics."

To read more about the issue of gun violence and mental illness, see Psychiatric News here and here

(Image: Maria Maarbes/


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