KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Post-Newtown: Parents, Politicians, Health Officials Press For More Mental Health Funding

Los Angeles Times: Connecticut Shooter's Problems All Too Familiar To Many Parents
For parents around the U.S., the mass school shooting in Connecticut fueled fears about how to ensure the safety of their own children. But for parents like [Elizabeth] Guzman, the tragedy affected them in a different and terrifying way, as they saw signs of their children in the shooter. ... Guzman and other parents say getting the right help for their mentally ill children is a constant and emotionally exhausting challenge. Schools are often unprepared to cope with their illnesses ... And years of state and local budget cuts have led to fewer mental health services nationwide (Gorman, 12/20).

The New York Times: Gaps In F.B.I. Data Undercut Background Checks For Guns
Nearly two decades after lawmakers began requiring background checks for gun buyers, significant gaps in the F.B.I.’s database of criminal and mental health records allow thousands of people to buy firearms every year who should be barred from doing so. The database is incomplete because many states have not provided federal authorities with comprehensive records of people involuntarily committed or otherwise ruled mentally ill (Schmidt and Savage, 12/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Lack Of Data Slows Studies Of Gun Control And Crime
There is no shortage of opinions about whether gun-control laws accomplish what they are designed to do—reduce violent crime. What is lacking are data. ... Researchers say the CDC hasn't funded primary research in gun control since the mid-1990s, in part because of pressure from the National Rifle Association. Congress has barred the agency from funding research that promotes a position on gun control, and the CDC has limited its efforts in the area to compiling data on firearm injuries (Palazzolo and Bialek, 12/21).

The Hill: Sen. Blunt: Reauthorize US Mental Health Agency
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) called for a full reauthorization of the federal mental health agency, known as SAMHSA, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. shooting massacre. In an op-ed Thursday, Blunt noted that the the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has not seen a comprehensive reauthorization since 2000. ... SAMHSA is a branch of the federal Health department. Established in 1992, the agency studies mental health issues and provides grants for behavioral healthcare delivery (Viebeck, 12/20).

The Hill: Health Advocates Applaud Obama For Gun Comments
The American Public Health Association (APHA) wrote to Obama Thursday urging a comprehensive plan to reducing gun deaths. “Gun violence is one of the leading causes of preventable death in our country and we must take a comprehensive public health approach to addressing this growing crisis,” wrote APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, M.D. ... The APHA is the latest in a series of health groups to endorse new policy solutions in the wake of last Friday's shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn (Viebeck, 12/20

WBUR: A Pediatrician's Advice On Gun Safety At Home
The American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended that pediatricians inform parents about gun safety, and in some cases, even provide them with gun locks and cables. The co-author of the AAP’s firearm guidelines [Dr. Robert Sege] joins Radio Boston to explain the importance of precaution (12/20).

Los Angeles Times: California Senate Leader Asks Feds For More Mental Health Funding
[T]he leader of the California state Senate proposed Thursday that the federal government step up and begin fully matching state spending to help the mentally ill. In California, for every dollar spent on mental health programs, the federal government provides only 32 cents, which Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said is inadequate given the need for mental healthcare in the state (McGreevy, 12/20).

The Associated Press: California Offered As National Mental Health Model
[T]he federal government should consider California's strategy for dealing with mental illness, experts and lawmakers said Thursday. The Mental Health Services Act passed by voters in 2004 levied a special tax on high-income residents to pay for housing, medication, therapy and other services. The tax has helped more than 60,000 Californians. A fifth of the money is dedicated to prevention and early intervention, though The Associated Press reported in August that tens of millions of dollars had gone to general wellness programs for people who had not been diagnosed with any mental illness (Thompson, 12/20).

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