…Quietly, lawmakers have been working on several plans that would lead to some of the most significant advancements in treating mental illness in years, proponents said. All stand a good chance of being in the final gun-control bill the Senate is now taking up.
The legislation would, among other things, finance the construction of more community mental health centers, provide grants to train teachers to spot early signs of mental illness and make more Medicaid dollars available for mental health care.
There would be suicide prevention initiatives and support for children who have faced trauma. The sponsors of one of the bills estimated that an additional 1.5 million people with mental illness would be treated each year.
The issue is one of the more distinguishing - and unnoticed - aspects of the gun-control debate, which has been stymied by partisan squabbling.Unlike other initiatives that the Senate is likely to vote on - expanded background checks, a restriction on high-capacity ammunition magazines and a ban on certain semiautomatic weapons - mental health unites lawmakers Republican and Democrat, urban and rural, even those with safe seats versus those who may face competitive races.
One bill, sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, has been joined by some of the Senate’s most conservative members who are strongly backed by the National Rifle Association, including Marco Rubio of Florida and Roy Blunt of Missouri, both Republicans.
Another bill, which has the support of Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, and Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, unanimously passed a Senate committee this week, something that could hardly be said about any of the gun legislation.
“This is a place where people can come together,” Ms. Stabenow said. “As we’ve listened to people on all sides of the gun debate, they’ve all talked about the fact that we need to address mental health treatment. And that’s what this does.””
– The New York Times, “Rare Accord in Gun Debate on Fixes to Mental Health System”