Some experts question states’ mental health laws to curb violence.

The New York Times (2/1, Goode, Healy, Subscription Publication, 1.68M) says some mental health experts have scrutinized many state proposals to bolster mental health services in response to the Newtown school shooting – proposals they deem hastily executed, “politically expedient,” and “unlikely to repair a broken mental health system.” Some mental health and legal experts “say that politicians’ efforts might be better spent making the process of involuntary psychiatric commitment – and the criteria for restricting firearms access once someone has been forcibly committed – consistent from state to state. And some proposals have caused concern, raising questions about doctor-patient confidentiality, the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities and the integrity of clinical judgment.”

McClatchy (2/1, Pugh) says healthcare advocates lobbying in the nation’s statehouses “hope growing tax revenues and renewed outrage over gun violence will lead lawmakers to boost funding” for mental health services, even though the states cut a collective $4.4 billion from their mental health budgets from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. In South Carolina, “where the state mental health budget has shrunk by $74 million since 2009, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley is calling for an $11 million increase for the state’s beleaguered mental health agency.” Meanwhile, in Idaho, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter “is backing plans to have the Department of Correction build a $70 million hospital to house nearly 600 mentally ill prisoners, along with non-offenders who’ve been involuntarily committed by the courts.”

Stigma of mental illness an obstacle to diagnosis, treatment. CBS Evening News (1/31, story 7, 4:00, Pelley, 5.58M)says Connecticut lawmakers, in a recent hearing on gun violence, listened to testimony from Sandy Hook library clerk Marianne Jacobs, who called for better mental health services for children. “We don’t know what drove the gunman in Newtown to kill, and the fact is that 95% of violent acts are committed by people with no serious mental illness. Even so, the shooting has put a spotlight on the treatment for the mentally ill.” The report profiles Zac Pogliano, who heard voices for a year until he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He delayed the diagnosis fearing the stigma associated with mental illness, but pharmaceutical and outpatient treatment have put him on a better path. His story “is a reminder that the stigma attached to mental illness makes people ashamed to admit their symptoms. Until that stigma is erased there will continue to be a delay in the proper diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disease.”

Survey: Majority back gun control, more mental healthcare. The Los Angeles Times (1/31, Healy, 692K) says the New England Journal of Medicine published a survey, conducted between January 2-14, that found “a majority of Americans – gun owners and non-owners alike – support stricter measures to keep handguns from people under 21 and to block ownership of any guns for 10 years by those who have perpetrated domestic violence, brandished a weapon in a threatening manner, or committed two or more drug- or alcohol-related crimes. … Almost 70% of respondents supported greater government spending and insurance coverage for mental healthcare as a means of averting gun violence.” Between 75% and 85% of respondents said that states, healthcare providers, and the military “should be required to notify a central background-check registry when a person has been declared mentally incompetent or committed to psychiatric care involuntarily, has threatened to harm himself or others, or has been rejected from service due to mental illness or drug- or alcohol-abuse.”

Related Links:

— “Focus on Mental Health Laws to Curb Violence Is Unfair, Some Say, “Erica Goode, The New York Times, February 1, 2013.

Posted in In The News.