WH: MH reform to address gun violence

President Obama’s comprehensive proposal to reduce gun violence, announced January 16, contains a slew of measures designed to expand mental health services nationwide.

Horizontal Shot Whitehouse with Cherry Blossoms
MH Reform: Addressing
Gun Violence

As part of the proposal, the administration launched Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), a new initiative that includes $40 million to help school districts works with law enforcement and mental health agencies to improve mental health services, as well as $15 million for training teachers and other professionals on ways to detect, and respond to, student mental illnesses.

The proposal also calls for $50 million to train 5,000 new mental health professionals, $25 million for new school-based programs, and an additional $25 million for programs for other young adults.

Many disability advocates expressed optimism that the plan will make a significant impact.

“(The National Alliance on Mental Illness) applauds the President’s plan for its significant provisions to strengthen and expand mental health services,” executive director Michael J. Fitzpatrick said in a news release. “The plan in fact reflects the thrust of many of NAMI’s recommendations that we offered Vice President Biden’s task force in the days immediately following the Newtown, Conn. tragedy.

“Out of tragedy, Americans today have an opportunity that probably comes only once in a generation. The mental health care system has long been broken. The challenge is not to fix it, but to build it anew, focusing on early screening, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.”

The Affordable Care Act requires all insurance programs to cover mental health treatment by 2014, as one of 10 essential health benefits categories that must be included in all plans. The proposal states that final regulations defining these plans will be introduced next month, as well as final regulations for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which prohibits insurance plans from treating recipients differently based on their mental illnesses.