Targeting mental health resources to the seriously mentally ill is important since they often face tragedies aside from violence.
On Sunday, U.S. senators working toward bipartisan gun legislation announced a framework agreement in response to several mass shootings this spring. Provisions so far include additional rational barriers to gun purchases and funding for state red flag laws, mental health, and school safety. As legislation is written, lawmakers should continue to prioritize mental health policies that target individuals with serious mental illness, who are most at risk of violence, over broad funding for mental health education and prevention programs, which don’t work.
Mass shootings are rare, and violence from any mental illness is rarer still. But among a narrow group of those with untreated serious mental illness, violence is more likely. Treatment, services and intervention targeted toward people with serious mental illness, then, is key to preventing violence from mental illness.
While the details will matter, the Senate proposal includes funding that likely will get resources to the seriously mentally ill: red flag laws, reviews of juvenile mental health records for gun buyers, and, importantly, mechanisms for expanding access to treatment and services for families with loved ones in crisis. These are all solid policies because they target individuals who need considerable intervention.
Carolyn Gorman is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and former board member of Mental Illness Policy Org.
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