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President Issues Plan to Reduce Gun Violence
January 18, 2013

Now is the Time, the President’s newly issued plan, addresses four ways to mitigate gun violence:

  • Close background check loopholes,
  • Ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,
  • Make schools safer, and
  • Increase access to mental health services.

President Obama stated “We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun.” An intense focus on mental health services by this administration may result in strengthening of the behavioral health system and greater understanding, acceptance, and access to services than has previously been possible. The plan proposes Project Aware (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) to train teachers and others who interact with young people to identify those who need help and connect them to services and supports. Mental Health First Aid is supported by $15 million to train teachers. Coordination between school districts, law enforcement, mental health providers, and other organizations for referral for behavioral health services is supported by $40 million. State-based strategies to support transition age youth 16 – 25 years old with behavioral health issues are proposed. The administration suggests $25 million to offer students mental health services for trauma, anxiety, conflict resolution programs, and other school-based violence prevention strategies. Another $50 million is proposed to provide stipends and tuition reimbursement to train more than 5,000 social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals. A national dialogue to increase understanding about mental health and mental illness will be launched by the secretaries of Health and Human Services and Education.

Expansion of Medicaid can provide mental health services to 6-10 million people with mental illnesses nationwide. An additional 17 million people could be afforded Medicaid coverage, including funding for behavioral health services, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Final regulations under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 that address parity of coverage for mental health services in group health plans will be issued. Final regulations for essential health benefits for small group and individual plans should be issued in February to include mental health benefits in parity with medical and surgical benefits.

The Department of Health and Human Services will issue guidance to health care providers to clarify that there is no federal prohibition on reporting direct and credible threats of violence to authorities. Guidance will also be issued clarifying that the ACA does not prohibit communication between doctors and patients regarding firearms.

Gun control measures have been widely reported in the media. This plan is a start and needs public discussion and support to move forward. View the complete document at http://wh.gov/Now-is-the-time.

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