President Obama was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House to mark the 1-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. But a year after the shooting, both experts and public say Obama should focus more on mental health issues like the states have done, not stricter gun control laws.
Public opinion, though the polls vary, stands firmly on the side of mental health reforms the states have adopted, and not stricter gun control laws pushed by the Obama administration.
According to a Gallup survey released on September 20, 2013, the number of Americans who blame the mental health system “a great deal” was at 48 percent, while 32 percent blame it “a fair amount,” or 80 percent in total.
In fact, those who say they at least blame a fair amount on drug use outnumbered those who blamed guns. Similarly, a Rasmussen poll from September 20, nearly 1 year after the school shootings in Newtown, more Americans than ever said they believe reforming mental health issues was the best way to prevent such mass murders.
The survey found that 54 percent of American adults think more to treat mental health issues will have the most benefit to reduce the number of mass shootings, which was up 6 points from 48 percent measured by Rasmussen in mid-December of last year following the Newtown shooting, with just 23 percent saying stricter gun control laws will do the most, down from 27 percent a year ago.
Even 12 percent said they prefer limits on violent movies and video games over gun control, with 11 percent claiming they are not sure. A CNN poll found the highest level of opposition to any new gun control measures since CNN started asking in 1989, which was mimicked by Gallup and examined overall in a recent PPD article.
Renowned psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, agreed with the American people blaming the state of our mental system, not President Obama and the Democrats who favor more gun control, particularly New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who has spent millions of dollars on ads to convince Americans otherwise.
“I wish that I could say that the year since Adam Lanza’s horrific acts has been one during which gun control advocates have realized their anti-gun agenda misses the point,” Ablow says. “Firearms aren’t the responsible variable in mass killings; untreated or poorly treated mental illness is.“
Reacting to public opinion, no doubt, following his failed push for stricter gun control laws, the Obama administration recently threw a token gesture at the problem. The White House announced $100 million for mental health programs, which came on the same day Vice President Biden met with the families of victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown.
Dr. Ablow characterized the announcement as “an important gesture,” and while many were quick to give the Obama administration accolades over the announcement, they failed to ask a single question: What does $100 million buy in mental health care across the country?
The answer: Nothing, at all. We can answer this question only because the states, despite headwinds from a federal government seemingly bent on restricting the Second Amendment, have been throwing money at reform proposals far before Obama ever began pandering to victims’ families.
Texas, by itself, is committing more than double the federal government under the Obama proposal, increasing its mental health funding by $259 million, which is the largest increase in Texas State history.
“It was a huge investment for Texas,” Clark, with Mental Health America of Texas, said. “Historically, the state has been very low in per capita funding for mental health. There are a lot of different programs the money is going toward but one of the most important is that it will eliminate waiting lists for someone who has a mental illness to go in and get help.”
According to the State Mental Health Agency’s latest research which tracked total dollar and per capita expenditures in fiscal year 2010, Texas was at the time one of the lowest-funded states in terms of per capita funding, coming out to $38.99 per person. Idaho was the lowest with $57.4 million, or $36.64 per person.
Texas also increased the salaries for psychiatric nurses, approved a $1.6 million public awareness campaign and set aside $4 million for a veteran’s mental health program.
The White House says $50 million of the $100 million will be trusted to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the same incompetent department responsible for the ObamaCare website debacle. The money will supposedly go to help community health centers hire more mental health professionals and provide additional services. The remaining money will be used by the Agriculture Department to improve mental health facilities in rural areas.
“It is a step in the right direction, but so much more needs to be done,” Lynn Lasky Clark, CEO of Mental Health America of Texas, told FoxNews.com.
As is the case with all top-down, government centered solutions, resources will most assuredly be arbitrarily and insufficiently divided, rendering the initiative an ineffective waste of money. John Grohol, founder and CEO of Psych Central, wrote in an online posting Thursday, “once you divide that amount by the approximately 750 community mental health centers in the country, it comes out to just $67,000 per center.”
“That’s one additional mental health professional per center — if that professional were a psychologist or such; maybe 2 if they were master’s level or less,” Grohol wrote.
Dr. Keith Ablow sees the same fundamental mental health care challenges stating, “We continue to cram the level of expertise available to psychiatric patients down further and further — often out of the reach of M.D.s, with those in need only being seen, for all intents and purposes, case workers or nurses.”
Unfortunately, Obama has already exacerbated the fundamental problem with ObamaCare, because hospitals and insurers will force doctors further from direct patient care in order to save money.
Under the new health care law, the amount of psychiatric patients that these non-M.D. health care professionals will be attempting to triage and treat will increase dramatically, “without any new strategy to keep them safe and the public safe,” Ablow said, adding that “the most ominous cases may well slip through even bigger cracks.”
The implementation of ObamaCare “will likely shift the distribution of financing sources for behavioral health care, as the expansion of private insurance and Medicaid coverage will lead these sources to account for a larger share of spending,” according to a report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.
Traditionally, financing behavioral health services has been the responsibility of state and local governments. But over time, with a dramatic acceleration under the Obama administration, the role of the federal government has increased. As usual, the federal government has decided to try to throw money at a problem in order to cover the fact they have, in large measure, created the problem in the first place.
Despite Biden’s comments Tuesday that the White House has “made it a priority to do everything we can to make it easier to access mental health services,” the Obama administration has done little to help advance the Excellence in Mental Health Act sponsored by Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, which would direct more resources to the mental health system.
The bill has been tabled in Congress, but because it does nothing to restrict the Second Amendment, it is of no use to the Obama administration and gun control allies.
Mayor Bloomberg just donated $250 million to the Bloomberg School of Public Health for 40 new academic positions, which will deal with gun control issues. The 40 new roles with add to the 8 people already doing such work at the school.
President Obama met with 23 foundations in January where they agreed to shift their focus from health care reform to gun control issues, or in other words, “if you like your gun you can keep your gun.”
In June, the federal government’s National Research Council issued a new report supporting Obama’s push for federal funding of research on gun issues. “The lopsidedness of the report is just a sign of things to come,” wrote John Lott regarding the research to be funded by the Obama administration.
The newly adopted liberal strategy includes sneaking in fees and taxes for purchasing guns, which according to gun policy expert John Lott will reduce gun ownership, “particularly for the very people who need them the most, the most likely victims of crime, the poor in high-crime urban neighborhoods.”
While it is obvious that the issue of gun control isn’t going to stop being a scapegoat for liberals any time soon, at least the states have moved in the direction of mental health reforms favored by the experts and the public.
According to the NAMI report, 36 states and the District of Columbia increased funding for mental health services following the Newtown shooting. And according to the Treatment Advocacy Center, close to a dozen states either passed or strengthened laws that could allow more people to receive court-ordered treatment for symptoms of severe mental illness.
D.C. led the nation for the most spent per capita at $217 million or $360.57 per capita, followed by Maine at $459.7 million or $346.92 per capita and Alaska at $214 million or $310.01 per capita.