KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mental Health Improvements Are A Key Part Of Obama’s Plan To Reduce Gun Violence

In addition to calling for changes in how the country handles gun sales, the proposal would increase mental health services, finish rules on mental health parity and restore federal gun research.

Modern Healthcare: Mental Health Care Part Of Obama Plan To Fight Gun Violence
Surrounded by schoolchildren, President Barack Obama on Wednesday introduced his plan to reduce gun violence ... that includes increasing access to mental health services and conducting federal scientific research on gun-violence causes and prevention. The president's announcement comes one month after a lone gunman murdered 20 children and six school staffers in a shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. In addition to 23 executive actions, the plan includes recommendations that Congress act swiftly to pass legislation that would require a universal background check for all gun sales, restore a ban on military-style assault weapons and limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds (Zigmond, 1/16).

USA Today: Obama Challenges Congress To Pass New Gun Regulations
At the heart of his agenda are calls to close background-check loopholes, make schools safer, increase access to mental health services and, most controversial, ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. All are measures that will require congressional action, and all face a level of opposition from some lawmakers — on both sides of the political aisle — and gun rights groups (Jackson and Madhani, 1/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama's Gun Curbs Face A Slog In Congress
Mr. Obama also on Wednesday set in motion 23 executive actions, most of them aimed at filling holes in law enforcement, mental health and school safety. They included efforts to push agencies to submit more mental-health records into the existing background-check system, to allow federal research into gun violence and provide funding for schools to hire law-enforcement officers (Meckler, Nicholas and Nelson, 1/16).

The Washington Post: A Challenge For Obama's Anti-Gun-Violence Reforms: Mental-Health Data Prove Elusive
President Obama, in trying to curb gun violence, is pushing for improved mental-health services, a revival of gun-related research and beefed-up reporting about potentially dangerous people who shouldn't own guns — efforts that are likely to rely heavily on the states and the public health sector. … A 2011 study by (Mayors Against Illegal Guns) found that while some states such as New York had submitted hundreds of thousands of records to the federal database, other states had lagged. Seventeen states had submitted fewer than 10 mental-health records, and four states had submitted none (Dennis and Sun, 1/16).

Bloomberg: Obama Pushes Mental Health Changes As Part Of Gun Package
President Barack Obama's proposals to increase access to mental health services and start a national dialogue as part of the effort against gun violence encouraged advocates who say the system fails many in need. Obama's measures include training teachers to recognize students who need help and refer them to mental-health services and finishing regulations that define what mental-health coverage must be included by insurance plans (Flinn, 1/17).

Kaiser Health News: Children, Teens, Young Adults Focus Of Mental Health Provisions In Obama's Gun Plan
If the National Rifle Association’s plan to curb violence was, in part, arming school employees with guns, President Barack Obama wants to arm them with something quite different: mental health training. The president’s plan centered largely on training teachers and others who work with children, teens and young adults to recognize mental illness as it’s developing (Varney, 1/17).

NPR: Mental Health Gun Laws Unlikely To Reduce Shootings
States aren't likely to prevent many shootings by requiring mental health professionals to report potentially violent patients, psychiatrists and psychologists say (Hamilton, 1/16).

USA Today: Obama Calls For Changes To Mental Health Care
Mental health advocates hailed President Obama's sweeping agenda to improve mental health care, part of his larger plan to reduce gun violence in the USA following the shooting last month in Newtown, Conn. After decades of disappointment, advocates for the mentally ill said they are cautiously optimistic that the nation may finally take meaningful action to repair a broken system (Szabo, 1/16).

Medpage Today: Mental Health Parity Coming, President Says
President Obama promised Wednesday that his administration would issue final rules implementing a 2008 law that requires insurers to cover mental health services on a par with physical care, but the President gave no time frame for doing so. The law -- the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act -- states that if a group health plan covers the treatment of mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse, it cannot charge higher copayments, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses for those services than for treatment of physical illnesses. Companies with fewer than 50 employees in their group insurance plans are excluded from the law (Pittman, 1/16).

Medpage Today: Mental Health Big Player In Obama's Gun Plan
Mental health issues were in the spotlight Wednesday in the executive orders President Obama signed and proposals he issued for Congress, all aimed at curbing violent gun deaths. The actions, announced in a news conference shortly before noon Wednesday, include several that focus on increasing research on gun violence while furthering access to mental healthcare, in part by widening screening and awareness and by putting mental health services on a par with physical health. The executive orders and proposals to Congress came after a series of White House meetings with more than 220 groups -- including public health organizations and medical societies -- following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people on Dec. 14 (Pittman, 1/16).

USA Today: Obama Demand Could End Research Blackout Into Gun Violence
President Obama's demand Wednesday for research into gun violence could usher in a flood of data on the nation's 32,000 annual gun deaths after decades of an information blackout. Scientists and policy makers say they have little scientific data about gun violence after Congress prohibited federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), from offering research grants to study anything that could be used to promote gun control (Leger, 1/17).

Politico: Obama: Doctors' Gun Talk Legal
Doctors may ask their patients about guns without fear that they are breaking the law, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday. Obama said he wants to clarify language in his 2010 health law that some health providers took to mean as a ban on such conversations (Cheney, 1/17).

Medscape: Obama Sides With Physicians In Fray Over Gun Questions
As part of his new initiative against gun violence, President Barack Obama today announced an executive action to protect the right of clinicians to talk to their patients about gun safety. In doing so, the president jumped squarely into a fray between organized medicine and the National Rifle Association (NRA).The executive action, one of 23 unveiled at a White House event, has a limited scope. It states that the administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), contrary to what some believe, does not prohibit or regulate communication about firearms between clinicians and patients (Lowes, 1/16).

Kaiser Health News also tracked news coverage yesterday of the announcement and details of President Barack Obama's gun control plan (1/16).

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