Mitch Perry Report 5-30-14: Congress begins to focus on mental health legislation, but will it make a difference?


Elliott Rodger, the Isla Vista shooter.
  • Elliott Rodger, the Isla Vista shooter.
Kathy Castor announced her support yesterday for the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act, a bill introduced earlier this month in the House by Representative Ron Barber from Arizona. That bill calls for a White House Office of Mental Health Policy and the development of what he calls a “national strategy for mental health.” Barber was an aide to Gabby Giffords and was with her when she was shot by a crazed assailant in Tucson back in January of 2011. 

Of course, there have been so many "crazed assailants" over the past few years that it's easy to lose track. The emphasis on mental health comes a week after the latest young white male's violent spree went national — Eliot Rodger last Friday night in Isla Vista, California.

Rep. Barber's bill should not be confused with the GOP's legislation — The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, sponsored by Pennsylvania Representative Tim Murphy, the only clinical psychologist in Congress. 

His bill would would reform the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) so that doctors and mental health professionals can share information with the families and caregivers of patients with serious mental illnesses, even if the patient has not authorized the communication. It would also make it easier to commit somebody for treatment, even against his or her will. And it would allow parents the power to ask a court to order an emergency psychiatric evaluation — something allowed in 34 states, but not in California, the site of last week's incident.

Can our divided Congress come together on this issue and manufacture a compromise to contain the best of both bills?  Or is no single bill enough when it comes to mental health issues? Quite probably not. But there is a need to do something, isn't there, after this last bit of violent madness? 

Unlike what happened after Adam Lanza's massacre at Newtown in December of 2012, there is very little serious discussion about gun regulations. It should be noted, incidentally, that the universal background check bill that lost a year ago won a majority of votes in the U.S. Senate, but fell short of the 60 required these days to actually "pass." 

It's simply not allowable for our leaders to put their hands up and shrug and think that by doing nothing we're going to alleviate these tragedies....

In other news…  Bill Nelson acted all indignant with reporters in Tampa yesterday when he was asked if he still harbors any fantasies about running for governor, but barely said a word when asked his thoughts about his party's likely gubernatorial candidate this year, Charlie Crist.

If you've driven down West Himes in Tampa recently and seen a stunning number of oak trees slashed, well, that's the work of TECO. The utility told CL why it's doing that.

And our feature in this week's paper looks at the state of play for the Florida Libertarian Party.

Add a comment