GUEST COMMENTARY: We must improve programs to help the mentally ill

Friday, December 21, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CST; updated 5:26 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 22, 2012

As the father of an 8-year-old son and the grandfather to six children under the age of 10, I am horrified by the incredible act of violence that killed 20 young students and the teachers who fought to protect them last week in Newtown, Conn.

In the wake of this tragedy, there’s no doubt that we need a serious and thoughtful national discussion about preventing this kind of senseless violence and protecting our children in their schools. I believe that should include a discussion about finding ways to spend federal dollars more wisely when it comes to treating and identifying people who are mentally ill. It should also include a conversation about ways that we can intervene before someone who is mentally ill does something that tragically impacts their lives and the lives of others.

Mental illness is just that: an illness. Millions of Americans suffer from diagnosable mental disorders. But too often, we neglect or miss the warning signs of an individual suffering from a mental disorder or mental health crisis, and we fail to help them in their time of need. As a nation, we must learn how best to care for the mentally ill in the hope that we may help to prevent tragedies.

Unfortunately, many communities do not have adequate mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services and facilities. In Missouri, the Mental Health First Aid program that is facilitated by the state’s Institute of Mental Health focuses on helping the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

State programs like this are a good step in the right direction, but we must also have a comprehensive conversation about the way Washington funds federal programs that treat mental illness, as well as a way to streamline information sharing when someone is identified as dangerously unstable.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is responsible for providing federal funding to support these services. This agency has not undergone a comprehensive reauthorization since 2000 — a problem that I believe Congress should address. Federal focus – and the dollars that follow – must facilitate proactive and cohesive collaboration across other agencies that work with the mentally ill and their caregivers.

In September, I signed a letter with the rest of the Missouri delegation in support of Missouri’s Mental Health First Aid Awareness Week to encourage individuals to learn the basic skills needed to identify potential mental health concerns. Just as we encourage people to receive training in first aid for medical emergencies, we should ensure members of our community also learn mental health first aid. And our doctors and clinical practices should be equipped with the tools and resources needed to care for children and adults who need mental health treatment.

Like all Americans, I worry about our kids’ safety, and I’m remembering the families who lost their loved ones in Newtown. There are no easy answers in the aftermath of this kind of horrendous loss. Together, we must work to prevent these acts of violence in a thoughtful and comprehensive way.

Roy Blunt is a Republican U.S. Senator from Missouri. This was first published in The Kansas City Star. 


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Michael Williams December 21, 2012 | 1:48 p.m.

Relating Blunt's mental health discussion to the horror of Newtown and elsewhere, what we REALLY should be doing is profiling the mental health of caucasian males.

Go with the percentages and probabilities...

Do I hear an "Amen?"

(Report Comment)
Tony Black December 21, 2012 | 3:31 p.m.

No, you hear me telling you what a stupid comment that is.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 21, 2012 | 3:51 p.m.

TonyB: Why?

Caucasian males commit the overwhelming number of mass and serial murders in the US.

Who was it that was asked "Why did you rob banks?" and replied "'Cause that's where the money is!"

Same thing.

The question to you remains: Why was it a stupid comment?

(Report Comment)
Tony Black December 21, 2012 | 4:00 p.m.

As soon as you answer mine from yestreday. Why do you need an AK-47 with a 30 round clip?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 21, 2012 | 4:28 p.m.

I told you, but you didn't accept it. If I had one, it would be for shooting enjoyment, a sufficient reason in its own right.

When I had my SKS, I enjoyed plinking at targets 100+ yards away and it was quite a challenge to hold tight at 25 yards in semi-auto mode with quick, multiple shots, trying to control kickback. The challenge is similar to firing a plugged shotgun 3 times at a blue-winged teal zooming right to left at a gazillion mph. It ain't easy. I was also going to try deer hunting with it, but did not do so because the scope I mounted failed to guarantee a tight group at 100 yds, thus risking a wound rather than a clean kill. So, I didn't.

Perhaps you thought I had other reasons relating to my manhood, but you'll just have to be disappointed. Your imagination is not my's simply your imagination, perhaps because that's how YOU'D be if you had one.

In fact, I'm sure there are lots of things you do that others could question, "Why?"

Now, your turn.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black December 21, 2012 | 4:44 p.m.

You are against government intrusion, yet you want to profile every white male. You don't see the idiocy of that statement, especially from a small government person such as yourself? Which are there more of, and which would be easier to track, white males or people who purchase semi automatic weapons? Hey, who cares how many people die, as long as you have your guns, right? Thats what I gather from your statements.

I would love to continue this, but I have stupid stuff to do. It's the end of the world, you know. You and yours have a very merry Christmas.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 21, 2012 | 5:10 p.m.

I'd say finding goofy white males is easier. Just ask any public school teacher, then hold the teacher harmless in any subsequent followup.

Would having documentation that the shooter's mom had guns have prevented anything?

It appears CT has an assault weapons ban. Did it prevent anything? You can make up your own mind here.....

Did you know that I can reload a revolver with a speedloader just as fast as I can a 9mm semi-auto mag? Yet you single out semi-autos. Either you don't know this can be done, or you're just playing camel-nose-under-tent.

No sale.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 21, 2012 | 5:17 p.m.

I'm absolutely shocked there is no public outcry against the TV showing of most old cowboy movies....and even some new ones like "Open Range".

Roy Rogers used a 9- and 11-shooter several times. So did Hopalong and I know for a fact that Gene Autry used a 13-shooter once. But the all-time record goes to Kevin Costner who used a 17-shooter in that end scene. Amazing! Wish I had assault-17-shooter! I bet that speedloader was humongous.....

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle December 21, 2012 | 10:11 p.m.

We must improve health programs, and education, period.

Roy Blunt is opposed to providing funding for healthcare in general, but he's calling for "Mental Health and Substance Abuse" funding? I think this is contradictory.

Tying mental health and substance abuse together is like a double-backflip, too, considering the entire mental health profession is basically an arm of the pharmaceutical industry, enabling widespread substance abuse. And yes, this does cause serious problems, including death.

We should be allocating our resources toward comprehensive healthcare for everyone.

We should be calling for more teachers and more books, computers, and other learning resources in schools.

These are the things that will make our country a happier, healthier, safer, wealthier nation.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking December 22, 2012 | 5:50 a.m.

Derrick Fogle wrote:

"We should be calling for more teachers and more books, computers, and other learning resources in schools."

Except the schools ask for more money every election, and often get it, yet educational outcomes are stagnant at best. This suggests to me there are problems that are either not solvable with more money, or that the money is being used for the wrong things.

All the teachers, books, and computers aren't going to help Johnny read better if he doesn't put in the effort. Unfortunately, more and more often he doesn't, and he gets passed on to the next grade anyway. Money won't solve this.


(Report Comment)

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