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March 13, 2018

White House calls for expanding mental health services to reduce US gun violence

Daily Briefing

    The White House on Monday proposed several actions intended to reduce gun violence in the United States, including expanding U.S. residents' access to mental health care.

    Learn 3 innovative ways to better manage behavioral health patients

    The proposals come about a month after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz allegedly opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people and wounding at least 15 others. Cruz previously had received treatment at a mental health clinic, though he had not received such treatment in over a year.

    Proposal details

    President Trump in the proposal calls for expanding and reforming U.S. mental health programs, including those involved in identifying and treating individuals who might pose a threat to themselves and others.

    In particular, Trump in the proposal calls for a review of statutory and regulatory privacy protections, such as HIPAA, to determine if the federal government must issue clarifications or changes to improve the coordination of services among health care professionals, school officials, and law enforcement. Trump also proposed:

    • Further integrating mental health, primary care, and family services; and
    • Supporting programs that use court-ordered treatment for mental health conditions.

    In addition, Trump in the proposal said his administration would establish the Federal Commission on School Safety, which is tasked with studying and making recommendations on policy and funding proposals aimed at preventing gun violence in schools, including opportunities to improve access to mental health treatment through efforts that:

    • Provide training related to violence prevention;
    • Raise awareness about mental health conditions and effective treatments; and
    • Reduce barriers to recruiting mental health professionals.

    The commission does not have a deadline to report its findings, but officials said the public can expect to see the commission's recommendations in under a year, Vox reports.

    The administration also proposed strengthening background checks on individuals looking to purchase firearms to identify individuals who have mental health conditions and adopting Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from individuals who poses a threat to themselves or others. 

    Sessions announces DOJ actions to improve background checks with a focus on mental health

    Separately, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday announced several steps the Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking to support the White House's new proposals, including strengthening background checks with a particular focus on mental health.

    Sessions said DOJ will work to improve access to state mental health records and directed the FBI to identify local jurisdictions that are not providing all records that identify individuals who are not permitted to possess firearms because of a mental health condition.

    Sessions said DOJ will use National Criminal History Improvement Program and NICS Act Records Improvement Program grants to help states provide accurate, complete, and timely information on individuals who are prohibited from owning a firearm because of a mental health condition to databases used for background checks on individuals wishing to purchase a firearm (Malloy/Gray, CNN, 3/12; Stewart, Vox, 3/12; Salant, Star-Ledger, 3/13; AP/U.S. News & World Report, 3/13; White House fact sheet, 3/12).

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