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After Shooting, Congress Ponders Mental Health Role

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Murphy called for Congress to initiate a “full-scale” effort into reviewing mental health issues. The lawmaker said he would also work to prevent end-of-year cuts to services.

Across the Capitol, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin also pressed Monday for a renewed focus on mental health services “with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention.”

“In the coming days, I will take a closer look at how the federal government can ensure that people and communities who need help for mental health conditions have timely access to the services they require and that those suffering after this tragedy also have the resources they need to heal,” the Iowa Democrat said in a statement.

Maryland Democrat Barbara A. Mikulski, chairwoman of the HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families, called for a two-step approach that addresses “military-style weapons” and mental health services available for young people.

“All of the recent attacks, whether it was in Aurora or this terrible tragedy in Connecticut, they’ve happened because young men fell between the cracks,” Mikulski said in Baltimore on Monday, according to a transcript from her office. “We have to know that mental health illness does exist in our communities; often silent, often invisible; borne only by those who suffer from it and the families who cope with it. We need to take this tragedy and turn it into a national opportunity to end violence.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also urged a renewed attention to the issue. “Medicaid is the largest payer of mental health services in the U.S.,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as both state and federal budget cuts have mounted nationwide, both inpatient and community services for children and adults living with serious mental illness have been downsized or eliminated. We must fix that.

“Despite the federal mental health parity law passed in 2008, which is in place to end insurance company discrimination against those seeking treatment for mental health, there is an incredible shortage of mental health providers across the country — including West Virginia,” he added. “This is yet another area where action is necessary.”

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