Mental Health Access Expansion Could Be Newtown’s Congressional Legacy


The Newtown school shooting ignited a debate about gun laws but beneath the shouting, there was a quieter, less contentious conversation about overhauling the way the U.S. treats its mentally ill, sayst he National Journal. A year later, it appears that mental-health measures—and not gun control—could be Newtown’s legislative legacy. A bipartisan pair of senators have a modest, incremental plan to expand access to mental-health services at community centers. Despite Congress’s deep legislative freeze, they have found a plausible path to get the measure to the president’s desk. The mental-health provision is attached to permanent “doc fix” legislation, a measure that would replace the broken formula used to reimburse physicians for Medicare services.

That bill, boasting support in both parties and both chambers, appears on track to becoming law. Senate Finance Committee members offered praise to sponsors Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) for their work to address the “broken” mental health care system. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) expressed discontent over the $1.6 billion price tag, but with it attached to the $116 billion permanent doc fix, the extra offset appears minute. Many Republicans back the bill, citing a serious need for reform. The momentum is fueled by reports that Newtown shooter Adam Lanza struggled with Asperger’s, a form of autism. Closer to Congress, the Navy Yard was attacled by a man who heard voices but did not seek treatment and a fatal Capitol Hill car chase touched off by a mother diagnosed with postpartum depression with psychosis.

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