States have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012, or about 12% of their total budgets, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. USA Today says the Newtown, Ct., shootings, even through a direct link to mental illness hasn’t yet been established, is galvanizing the mental health community to examine what is often described as a failing system, one that is underfunded, overburdened, and ultimately ineffective.
Yet the scale and nature of Sandy Hook Elementary School case lead many to the inescapable conclusion that mental illness is a piece of the puzzle, as it has been with other mass shootings like Virginia Tech in 2007, Tucson, where Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot in 2011, and the Aurora, Co., theater shooting last summer. While advocates have called for change before, some say this time, with the loss of so many young children and their teachers, is different. President Obama made the mental health connection, saying, “We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun.”