KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Take Up Mental Health Care, Stricter Gun Control As Shooting Fallout Continues

Fallout from recent mass killings involving the mentally ill have states scrambling to figure out how to best treat these patients as well as considering stricter gun controls -- which, in turn, is drawing the ire of the National Rifle Association.

Bloomberg: Expecting Mental Care To Curb Shootings Overlooks Neglect
Counting on improved mental-health care to help avert gun violence such as the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Tucson, Arizona, overlooks years of neglect and funding cuts. The National Rifle Association and its mostly Republican allies propose bolstering the mental-health system in place of gun-control measures sought by President Barack Obama and other Democrats. States have reduced mental-health spending by 10 percent since 2009, and with federal spending cuts starting March 1, money for improvements is scarce (Rowley, 2/27).

CT Mirror: Mental Health Panel To Endorse Educator Training, Case Management, Not Outpatient Commitment
A bipartisan legislative panel crafting policy changes in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School is expected to recommend that case management be available to people with serious mental illness and that educators receive "mental health first aid" training to recognize signs of problems. The committee will also recommend creating a task force to look at ways to improve the mental health system for adolescents and young adults, including addressing gaps in private insurance coverage. And it's likely to endorse a Massachusetts program that helps pediatricians intervene when children have psychiatric needs, the group's co-chairwomen said Wednesday (Becker, 2/27).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Massacres Revive Debate On Involuntary Commitment, Better Treatment
The subject of forced hospitalization of potentially dangerous mentally ill people -- known as involuntary commitment -- has gained currency in the immediate aftermath of the killings. Had a stricter involuntary commitment law been in place, some argue, suspected shooter James Holmes might have been in a psychiatric hospital rather than an Aurora movie theater on the night of July 20, 2012. But many experts believe involuntary commitment is a specious solution to a very complex and poorly understood problem. Involuntary commitment laws may very well need to be beefed up, say many, but such a move in itself is no guarantee we can prevent massacres like the ones in Aurora and Sandy Hook (Winter, 2/27).

NPR: For Bloomberg, Guns (Like Big Sodas) Are A Health Issue
The victory of a pro-gun-control candidate in the Illinois Democratic primary race to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was also a political win for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose superPAC backed the winner over a candidate it linked to the NRA. But Robin Kelly's victory Tuesday was, for Bloomberg, more than just another achievement on the gun control front. It was one more win in Bloomberg's unique assault on what he views as the public health problems of our time (James, 2/27).

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