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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora