Even as the debate over gun rights takes center stage in President Obama’s response to the schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., advocates are applauding his new mental health-related initiatives.
The White House on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping new agenda to reduce the nation’s gun violence, which has left some opponents going as far as threatening impeachment of the president over the issue.
That agenda includes a number of new initiatives to improve U.S. mental health services, which the head of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) immediately praised.
“NAMI applauds the President’s plan for its significant provisions to strengthen and expand mental health services,” says Michael Fitzpatrick , executive director of NAMI. “The plan in fact reflects the thrust of many of NAMI’s recommendations that we offered Vice President Biden’s task force in the days immediately following the Newtown, Conn. tragedy.
“Out of tragedy, Americans today have an opportunity that probably comes only once in a generation. The mental health care system has long been broken. The challenge is not to fix it, but to build it anew, focusing on early screening, diagnosis, treatment and prevention,” Fitzpatrick adds.
NAMI calls itself the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research.
Fitzpatrick highlights several points in the President’s plan takes important steps toward meeting the challenge, including:
- Early identification and intervention including training for teachers, school resource officers and others in a position to spot the signs of mental illness and provide assistance.
- Steps for improving mental health and substance abuse treatment for individuals between the ages of 16 and 25.
- Finalizing mental health parity regulations for health insurance.
- Training more than 5,000 additional mental health professionals to serve students and young adults.
- Launching efforts to improve understanding of mental illness and the importance of mental health treatment.
“The President emphasizes the need for parents, teachers and school counselors to work together. In addition, NAMI emphasizes the importance of family education and support as a critical component in meeting the challenge,” Fitzpatrick says. “The President correctly notes that the vast majority of people living with mental illness are not violent. NAMI supports fixing the existing federal background check system for gun purchases and emphasizes that this should include provisions to protect privacy and ensure that people will seek mental health treatment when needed.
“NAMI is eager to work with the Administration and Congress on the implementation of these important steps,” he adds.