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In Wake Of Newtown Tragedy, Virginia Governor Proposes Slashing Funding For Mental Health Services

Tara Culp- Ressler
Think Progress / News Report
Published: Monday 17 December 2012
While some lawmakers are working toward legislative solutions to prevent gun violence, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is proposing a new budget that could undermine that goal and seek to tighten their budgets to compensate for the rising costs of health care.
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In the wake of the tragic shooting in an elementary school in Newtown, CT, Americans are engaged in a renewed discussion about how to prevent future mass shootings. But while some lawmakers are working toward legislative solutions to prevent gun violence, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) is proposing a new budget that could undermine that goal.

McDonnell is proposing a mix of spending increases and cuts to Virginia’s two-year budget that would slash nearly $60 million to state agencies — and, as the Washington Post reports, some of those cuts come from sources many Americans might prefer to be well-funded. Even though the events in Newtown have put mental illness back in the national spotlight, McDonnell seeks to cut $1.5 million from Virginia’s mental health facilities, and looks to save an additional $7 million by closing a juvenile correction facility in the state.

Mental health services remain largely underfunded across the country, as many states like Virginia seek to tighten their budgets to compensate for the rising costs of health care. Only about 7 percent of Americans currently receive some type of mental health treatment, potentially because they can be difficult to afford — mental illness tends to disproportionately impact low-income Americans, but treatment carries high out-of-pocket costs.

Luckily, Obamacare may help improve Americans’ access to mental health treatment, since federal officials do recommend that all states offer coverage for mental health services in the health insurance exchanges they will operate under the health reform law. McDonnell, however, remains a staunch opponent of Obamacare and has refused to work toward setting up a state-level exchange in Virginia.



ABOUT Tara Culp- Ressler

TARA CULP-RESSLER is an editorial assistant at ThinkProgress.org. Before joining ThinkProgress, Tara deepened her interest in progressive politics from a faith-based perspective at several religious nonprofits, including Faith in Public Life, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Interfaith Voices.

 

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Virginia's TEA-Republican

Virginia's TEA-Republican Governor has set about to undermine the mental health avenues in his state by cutting the budget for those without any vote. Those most susceptible to situations and conditions pointing to the same possibilities in his state. Mental health services and juvenile correction facilities are not the way to take care of the people and jobs will be lost. Unfunded mental health facilities and failure to implement the Medicaid improvement for the states people shows his failure to perform his job adequately. Surely Virginia will take notice and vote him out of office and all the other purveyors of doom.

I suspect that in the coming

I suspect that in the coming days and months, new information will come to light about the family life of Adam Lanza. Some information has suggested that there were issues in the home and little or no support for the young man who lashed out at his mother, and then innocent children at school. It is tragic, but the tragedy started much, much earlier-in the home. Lanza's parents were divorced, Ms. Lanza was reportedly a familiar face at a local bar, and had a penchant for guns. While she may have given an outward appearance of "normalcy" there is much about the private lives of people that remains behind closed doors. Trouble in school could, or should have been a red flag for authorities, but Adam was removed from school-to be home schooled by his mother. He may well have been subjected to the emotional roller coaster of his mother's inability to deal with her own issues, which may have caused him to withdraw into a world within his mind, that he could control-giving an outward appearance of something we could label-Asperger's, which once labeled-put the focus on Adam, rather than his family situation. Mental Health counseling-just someone to talk to safely- might have revealed some of the real issues Adam was facing, might have been able to provide him some resources, might have given him options.

I speak with only intuition, knowing from experience that mental health issues in children are often "reactive" cries for help dealing with parental instability while they are still dependent on their parents. Kids cannot be evaluated and labeled without first understanding the environment in which they must live and survive, and in some families, childhood becomes about emotional survival. When we see kids withdraw, the place to look is at the family dynamics. Alcohol abuse can create some crazy family dynamics. While family is not always the only problem, is often the major problem. The "drama" of life and survival of it distracts the ability of kids to focus their attention on learning and socializing, and necessarily causes them to focus on survival and escape.

Adam Lanza was angry, needed a way out, a way forward, and perhaps a way towards stability that he could not get at home. His choices were tragic but many of the choices that led to his, were made for him by others-his parents, and a system that allowed him to become isolated in home school, isolated from peers and extended family, and left him to fend for himself with no resources, no access to community support, or hope. When survival becomes too difficult, when hope is lost and the road forward impossible to see, a young man might get depressed, and might become angry enough at the life in which he could find no hope, to hurt not only himself, but take the lives of others. There is no doubt that his actions were wrong, but there is much doubt that they could have been prevented, had there been some social, family, community connections that offered him hope.

If the tragedy does nothing else, it makes clear that whether we like it or not, admit it or not, we are a community and we live with the consequences of the choices we make for ourselves and others. We live with "other people's kids." We can't go on with our heads in the sand worrying only about ourselves and our own kids because we, and they are not safe and secure when "other people's kids" have issues that are left unaddressed. We can't think ourselves safe when anger and injustice go unaddressed, when bullying is tolerated, shaming and isolation used as "character building," and when kids are allowed to retreat into video games, anger, and guns. These problems will not change until we do, until we as a society decide that we have a duty and responsibility to ourselves, our children and our community and refuse to shame one another because we are too ignorant to understand them, or allow our neighbors and their kids to retreat into isolation. Problems don't go away because we refuse to see them. They go away only when we address them.

I haven't seen so much

I haven't seen so much ignorance and meanspirited comment in a long time about some of our weakest citizens, the mentally ill...It is shameful and Virginia will rue the day this governor cut something as crucial and historically underfunded. Your lack of knowledge about mental illness is staggering. Your willingness to speculate and make it up to 'explain' and dismiss this is appalling. Adam Lanza no doubt had brain damage, or brain anomalies, or brain chemical imbalances that made this inevitable. I think his mother was doing all she could to protect him and society. i fault her for owning guns and leaving them accessible to him. But we don't even know that they were accessible because of her. He may have broken into a gun safe..These facts remain to be discovered and we would do well to withhold judgment. He clearly had neurological disorders that affected his behavior. The school system and the system in general failed him much earlier in his life. Perhaps there was no good end for him. His disabilities may simply have been too severe. Until you have walked a mile in his mother's shoes, it would behoove you to shut your mouth and open your ears and learn about mental illness....if we ever decide to fund the research we will cure mental illnesses...There are many functional and contributing citizens who have a mental illness that fortunately for them can be controlled and medicated..Not all, like Adam, are that fortunate. Euthanasia? seriously? are you even human? certainly your remarks are worthy of contempt....This governor will seriously damage a state I used to like...in fact, was a resident of Virginia, a descendant of Jamestown settlers, and a First Family of Virginia descendant.....Vote him out of office next time. Virginia deserves better.

About mental health

About mental health treatment. Takes too long .... Costs too much .... Often requires psychotropic medication that must be professionally monitored and adjusted ... May or may not to effective and leave the public at the mercy of maniacs - excuse me, mental health patients - to act out their fantasies on whoever happens to be nearby.

It's not nice or p9litically correct to stigmatize the mentally ill or suggest that mental patients under medication might be a danger to themselves and others, but it's a real possibility whose evidence we witness almost every day after someone is pushed off a platform under an oncoming train, there's a mass shooting in a shopping mall, small children are killed in school, a small boy is kidnapped then strangled on his way home.

Mental illness is not a curable physical illness. Mental illness cannot with certainty be cured, nor can a "relapse" be prevented. Mentally ill people, who have done murder, whatever their diagnosis, should be quickly and painlessly euthanized.

In response to Gael Gibney:

In response to Gael Gibney: Germany, 1936.

We need mental health

We need mental health facilities. If we don't get them, we'll have more mothers taking their mentally ill children to the gun range to gain confidence.
This is off topic- but home schooling- the mother is in the face of the child all of the time 24/7--he shot her multiple times.
The school- maybe he did that because he believed the school failed him, when his mother pulled him out- maybe it was a protection killing-to keep these poor angels from being locked into home schooling.
I was a high school teacher, and I had many students that had been home schooled, isolated, and the worst classroom and teacher was preferable to being home. The parents weren't abusive-just in the face of their child 24/7.

Cut mental health...?! I'm

Cut mental health...?! I'm speechless. Who elects these complete idiots?

McDonnell is a panderer to

McDonnell is a panderer to the Tea Party. He has been one of the worst Governors this state has ever had. He has waged a war on public employees, cutting benefits, requiring them to pay for retirement and Health Care. He has looked the other way as the idiot Attorney General has made a laughingstock of Virginia in his ridiculous actions against UVA and his attempt to make the Great Seal of the Commonwealth more modest.

Under McDonnell's leadership the state has given 1.29 billion dollars in tax, breaks, special allowances and free land (Source New York Times) to corporations that are already making huge profits. It is claimed these are to secure jobs in the state but the cost of each job is so great that it will never pay for itself . McDonnell is paying $100,000 for a job that pays $25,000.00 year. How will it ever pay the taxpayers back?

Far better, I think, would be

Far better, I think, would be a thorough examination of the performance of "community mental health centers" and related facilities. In my home area, there is a "community mental health clinic" which operates several outpatient facilities, two inpatient facilities, and is associated with a number of halfway houses and assisted living facilities, most of which are owned by employees or family members of employees. The result has been much like that noted by critics of private prisons. People seek counseling or help in coping with a life issue and end up medicated to the eyeballs, then thrown onto a veritable conveyor belt of hospitalizations and stays in the various "aftercare" facilities. When the patient census is too low to keep the money flowing or if someone manages to break through their med fog enough to object, they often end up facing a judicial commitment.

There is a courtroom right in the hospital so that these proceedings can be carried out without anyone noticing. When, some years ago, I attempted to intervene in one such case, offering to testify on behalf of someone who was being railroaded, a physician at the facility notified authorities that I had made death threats against the county attorney and the "patient's" attorney. I escaped criminal charges only because I had a very good supportive witness, but was barred from entering the building to testify. The attorney representing my friend, conversely, was the psych ward's nursing director's brother.

This has gone on for decades, with who knows how many people ending up as lifelong "mental patients" and being kept in the system after years of relentless overmedication leaves them unable to care for themselves. Of course, there's always an assisted living space open, where the now used-up person can continue making money for the "mental health" people until he or she dies.

Most victimized in this manner are low-income people whose Medicare or Medicaid pays the bills for treatment no matter how questionable. Of course, these folks also cannot afford attorneys to defend themselves. So what is effectively cannibalizing members of society by turning them into near-vegetables continues, as it has for more than two decades.

Could I see a show of hands from people who would like to see this sort of "treatment" funded by public dollars? If this place, and I have no doubt there are many others like it, were checked merely for the number of people who actually benefit from the treatment they receive, and reimbursement for care based on patient outcome, I suspect the place would be out of business shortly. Here we have an example of the sort of area where funding needs to be cut.

There are people genuinely in need of mental health services and they should be able to receive them, appropriately and without the stigma that even today is all too often applied to the "mentally ill". But they need responsible medical treatment under appropriate oversight, not to become cash cows for operations that are recreating the Soviet-era psychiatric gulag.

Would someone check his

Would someone check his mental health? Perhaps sociopath? Social Darwinist?

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