Dear Mr. XXXXX:
Thank you for expressing your concerns over gun control and access to mental health care.
When our children and families are no longer safe at our schools, in our malls, and in our movie theaters, we as a country must take action. The shocking numbers of public shootings throughout the country last year, culminating in Newtown, Connecticut, demand that we engage in a serious national discussion.
Many people have expressed concerns about holes in our mental health care system that contributes to violence. Though people with mental illness are not at an increased risk of behaving violently in general, there is a subset of individuals with mental illness who are at risk of violent behavior of the kinds we have seen in public gathering places.
Over the last few years, Congress has passed laws to improve the mental health system so individuals in need of psychiatric evaluation, treatment, and support do not fall through the cracks. Several components of these laws have yet to be fully implemented.
In a bipartisan effort to ensure that mental and behavioral health services are covered by insurance in a manner equivalent to medical and surgical services. Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008 This law prohibits insurance companies from arbitrarily limiting the number of hospital days or outpatient treatment sessions a patient is granted, as well as prohibiting higher copayments or deductibles for subscribers who seek psychological services. Such practices by insurance companies were both wrong and counterproductive. This legislation will help the 54 million Americans with mental illness gain access to appropriate and affordable treatment. My Senate colleagues and I have been working with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ensure this law is fully implemented. Additionally, I and several of my colleagues sent a letter to President Obama asking him and HHS to fully implement the law.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is also working to improve access to mental and behavioral health services. Individuals in Ohio who have been denied insurance coverage due to a pre-existing mental health condition can now access the new Ohio High-Risk Insurance pool. For more information on the high risk pool or to sign-up for coverage, please visit http://www.insurance.ohio.gov/Docume...skPoolFAQs.pdf
The ACA immediately eliminated pre-existing coverage exclusions for children. Kids will no longer be denied coverage — or have services excluded from coverage — as a result of pre-existing conditions. Additionally, parents of young adults can now maintain coverage for their children until age 26. Serious mental illness is often first noticed in the late teens or early twenties, when the brain is changing rapidly and when pressures to perform are great. It is crucial that young adults with existing or emerging mental illnesses not experience lapses in coverage at this time of high risk.
Beginning in 2014, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to individuals with mental illness and insurers cannot use mental illness as a reason to raise premiums. HHS also established an essential benefits package — a set of health care service categories that must be covered by most plans — that will take effect in 2014. Mental health and substance abuse disorder services will be part of this package.
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the ACA represent tremendous strides forward for mental health coverage and access. However, we must also re-examine our mental health safety net, which has faced unrelenting budget cuts, reducing access for some our most vulnerable citizens.
Finally, we must work to reduce the stigma attached to mental health treatment, and find ways to support families who are concerned about the mental health status of their loved ones. It is essential that families know about the mental health resources available to them, and that they understand they have allies and other resources to which they can turn. Education about signs of mental illness, how to obtain a mental health screening, and how to access treatment services are simple but key ingredients to a successful national plan for managing mental health crises. Should any legislation concerning gun control and access to mental and behavioral health care come before the Senate, I will keep your thoughts in mind.
Thank you also for sharing your thoughts on background checks for firearms owners.
I continue to receive numerous constituent letters voicing opinions on this issue. Gun shows have become a way for criminals and gun traffickers to purchase weapons without a background check and without a record of purchase. Gun sellers at these shows are not always registered the same way as owners of gun shops. This enables people to sell guns to criminals or the mentally unstable without any record being created for law enforcement. The International Association of Chiefs of Police supports improving and expanding the background check process to ensure that registration and background check is conducted for every gun sale.
Gun control is a complex issue and we must work together to uphold our Constitution while at the same time ensuring that our communities are safe. We can and must act to ensure tragedies like this never happen again.
Should any legislation come before the Senate for a vote, I will keep your views in mind. Thank you again for getting in touch with me.
United States Senator
I'm 50/50 on the response.
Brown is so far left he's past Marx.
FWIW - the International Chiefs of Police he mentions are the same miserable bastards that fought CCW in Ohio tooth and nail.