Sen. Roy Blunt is hopeful Congress can agree that mental health treatment is the key to preventing mass killings and other tragedies. He says he’s pleased that discussions are ongoing in the Senate about what he calls the nation’s fragmented mental health system. And he says it’s the one priority in the gun debate both sides of the aisle can agree on.
“When we had the bill on the gun debate last month, I think the only provision, the only amendment, that passed was the one on mental health,” he said, noting the measure cleared the Senate on a 95 to 2 vote.
Blunt is co-sponsoring three bills that would bolster mental health services. One would would support mental health first aid trainings to help individuals to identify, understand, and respond to the signs of mental illnesses and addiction disorders. That includes teachers, scout leaders, church leaders, and anyone who works with young people. Another would offer Community Mental Health Centers a chance to become certified as behavioral health centers, and a third would give more support to law enforcement officers.
The bills are outlined below.
“I believe we need to have a national discussion about improving the ways in which we treat and identify people who are mentally ill so we can try to intervene before someone does something that tragically impacts their lives and the lives of others,” Blunt says. “That discussion should include looking for ways to spend federal dollars more wisely when it comes to mental illness, and these bills are a step in the right direction.”
• Blunt joins Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in introducing the “Excellence in Mental Health Act,” a bipartisan bill that offers current Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) a chance to obtain the Federally Qualified Community Behavioral Health Center (FQCBHC) designation. The legislation is also co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
• Blunt is a co-sponsor of the “Mental Health First Aid Act of 2013,” which was introduced by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and co-sponsored by six of their colleagues. The bill authorizes the launch of a demonstration program to support mental health first aid trainings nationwide in order to help individuals to identify, understand, and respond to the signs of mental illnesses and addiction disorders.
• Blunt is also a co-sponsor of the “Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act,” which was introduced by U.S. Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 14 of their colleagues in the Senate and 10 members in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would improve access to mental health services for people in the criminal justice system who need treatment. The bill also focuses on giving law enforcement officers the tools they need to identify and respond to mental health issues, and includes a 5-year reauthorization of the “Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act,” continuing support for mental health courts, and crisis intervention teams.