News / USA

Lawmaker Proposes Mental Health Care Reforms

Flowers are placed through a bullet hole in a window of a store, where part of a mass shooting took place, May 24, 2014, in Isla Vista, California.
Flowers are placed through a bullet hole in a window of a store, where part of a mass shooting took place, May 24, 2014, in Isla Vista, California.
Cindy Saine
Last week's mass stabbing and shooting attack that left six people dead in Santa Barbara, California has reignited debate in the United States about gun regulations and whether to require people with serious mental illness to receive psychiatric care.  Some members of the U.S. Congress are calling for laws to be changed to make it easier for families to have a loved one hospitalized when they are worried about that person's health or the safety of the community.  

Republican Representative Tim Murphy is a child psychologist.  Citing a long list of alleged perpetrators of mass killings: in Santa Barbara, California, Newtown, Connecticut, Tucson, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado, among others, Murphy said all of them appeared to have one thing in common.

"All had untreated or undertreated serious mental illness.  All spiraled out of control within a system that lacked the basic mechanisms to help," said Murphy.

Congressman Murphy pointed out that violence by people with mental illness is very rare, and is most often self-inflicted.  In fact, the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims of violence, robberies and other crimes.  Murphy is one of many experts who say the U.S. mental health care system is in crisis and needs a major overhaul.  He has introduced legislation that would push states to permit seriously ill patients to be hospitalized against their will.

At a forum on Capitol Hill Thursday, Edward Kelley said his family has struggled for 15 years to help their now adult son deal with a serious mental illness and his rejection of treatment.  Kelley said the mental health system is failing his son, who has often ended up wandering the streets homeless after short hospitalizations.

"But the laws and the standards of what gets you in that hospital are too high.  So you go past that moment of safety, and now you are just clinging," said Kelley.

Another expert at the forum was DJ Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org.  Jaffe said the U.S. also needs to change its priorities on mental health care spending.

"My one message is we have to stop ignoring the most seriously ill.  We can't go on pretending that they don't exist," said Jaffe.

Jaffe said until the early 1960's, most mental health expenditures went to the seriously mentally ill in state psychiatric hospitals, but today, more federal dollars go to improving the mental health of all citizens, instead of focusing on the most seriously ill.

The debate is likely to continue in Congress.  Democratic Representative Ron Barber has sponsored competing legislation that would focus on early identification of mental illness and treatment.  Barber was among those injured in 2011 when a gunman opened fire on then-congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona.  Barber and Giffords survived, but six others were killed.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs