KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Keeping Firearms Out Of The Hands Of The Mentally Ill

The New York Times reports on the challenge of keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, while The Wall Street Journal explores the difficulty finding treatment for many people because of a lack of providers in many places.

The New York Times: When The Right To Bear Arms Includes The Mentally Ill
The Russo case highlights a central, unresolved issue in the debate over balancing public safety and the Second Amendment right to bear arms: just how powerless law enforcement can be when it comes to keeping firearms out of the hands of people who are mentally ill. Connecticut’s law giving the police broad leeway to seize and hold guns for up to a year is actually relatively strict. Most states simply adhere to the federal standard, banning gun possession only after someone is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility or designated as mentally ill or incompetent after a court proceeding or other formal legal process. Relatively few with mental health issues, even serious ones, reach this point (Luo and McIntire, 12/21).

The Wall Street Journal: For The Mentally Ill, Finding Treatment Grows Harder
As hard as it might be to acknowledge having a mental-health illness, finding professional help can be even harder. Last year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, almost 91 million adults lived in areas like here where shortages of mental-health professionals made obtaining treatment difficult. A departmental report to Congress earlier this year said 55% of the nation's 3,100 counties have no practicing psychiatrists, psychologists or social workers, [a result of] a combination of budget cuts and doctors leaving the profession (Fields and Corbett Dooren, 12/20).

The Star Tribune: Two Senators Block Franken's Mental Health Bill
Legislation that would strengthen mental health ­programs across the country is being blocked by two senators who believe that states should govern how mentally ill people are treated, said Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., a chief co-sponsor of the bill. Franken, who has made mental health legislation a centerpiece of his Senate work, declined to identify the reluctant senators, saying that the lawmakers are being heavily lobbied behind the scenes to move aside so the bill with bipartisan support can get a floor vote. “There is pressure from law enforcement groups and attorneys from within his state for him to not block the bill,” Franken said of one of the ­senators during an interview earlier this week. “I think we’ll get there, but right now there is a hold on the bill” (McEnroe, 12/23).

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