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Tim M.
Republican PA 18

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  • Mental Illness and Gun Violence

    by Representative Tim Murphy

    Posted on 2015-12-09

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    MURPHY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, next week is the third anniversary of the sad tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School; but it is also time to recall all those other cities in America where tragedies have occurred: Tucson, Colorado Springs, Lafayette, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Dallas, Houston, Roseburg, Isla Vista, the Navy Yard, and closer to my district in Pittsburgh, Franklin Regional High School.

    What is common among these tragedies is the lives lost. I keep in my office photographs of some of the children whose lives were lost at Sandy Hook--Benjamin Andrew Wheeler, Dylan Hockley, and Daniel Barden-- as well as those of teachers and other people from the school. A day doesn't go by that I greet them in the morning and throughout the day and remember their lives, snuffed out too early.

    But, sadly, the body count is more than just them when it comes to dealing with what people with severe mental illness and violence do. The body count this year is amazing. There will be 41,000 suicide deaths, 43,000 deaths from drug overdose, perhaps 1,000 to 1,500 homicides, perhaps a couple hundred people who encounter the police and are mentally ill and end up with their death, an unknown number of homeless who die that slow-motion death of homelessness, and those who are mentally ill that die 25 years sooner because of other chronic illness.

    The body count this year will be greater than the U.S. combat deaths in Korea and Vietnam combined. Will that wake us up to do something in this Chamber? {time} 1030 There are several things we must do: We must reform the agency called SAMHSA, which has used Federal money over the years for the most ludicrous and preposterous things; from designing art for pillowcases to collages and other aspects. We must reform the 112 Federal agencies that we pump money into every year to deal with mental illness. We have to deal with the shortage of beds. We have to get rid of the same-day doctor rule. We have to bring in more psychiatrists and psychologists who can provide treatment. We have to provide more early intervention and prevention, a greater workforce. And this Chamber has to stop postponing action on reforming our mental health system and bring to the floor H.R. 2646.

    I have been working with a wide range of Democrats and Republicans over the last couple of years to reform this bill, revise it, and perfect it. But at some point, if we are serious about helping those with serious mental illness, we have to bring it for action.

    Part of what happened is we closed all these asylums years ago and thought that if we provided some treatment for people, things would get better. States failed to provide that treatment. We shut down hundreds of thousands of psychiatric hospital beds and leave people still dumped into a system where they don't get care.

    Our current mental health system is hugely discriminatory. The most fundamental, dangerous, and destructive hidden undercurrent of prejudice is low expectations; that your disability is as good as it gets. The shift to consider changes in how we treat severe mental health is a pendulum swinging the other way.

    The grand experiment has failed of closing down all the institutional care and stopping all treatment. It is a principle that operated under the misguided self-centered and projected belief that all people at all times are fully capable of deciding their own fate and direction, regardless of their deficits and disease, and that the right to self- decay and the right to self-destruction overrides the right to be healthy.

    Those children at Sandy Hook had rights. The people throughout the country who are mentally ill have the right to be well and not just the right to be sick.

    But to maintain the current philosophy that many have, we abdicate comfortably our responsibility to action and live under the perverse redefinition that the most compassionate compassion is to do nothing at all.

    It further bolsters the most evil of prejudices that a person with disabilities deserves no more than what they are. Under that approach, no dreams, no aspirations, no goals to be better can even exist. Indeed, to help a person heal is a head-on collision with a bigoted belief that the severely mentally ill have no right to be better than they are and we have no obligation to help.

    This is the corrupt evil of the hands-up approach in the anti- treatment model. That perversion of thought is embedded in the glorification that to live a life of deterioration, paranoia, filth, squalor, and emotional torment trumps a healed brain and a true chance to choose a better life.

    We have to change this trajectory. When we leave for the holiday period here, we will go by another month before we can bring this bill to the floor. Two hundred and forty people will die each day being a victim or perpetrator because of the mentally ill. For goodness sake, if we are going to do anything to help this country, Mr. Speaker, let's bring H.R. 2646 for a vote on this floor and fix this problem in America.


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