Fiscal Cliff Could Cut Programs Crucial for Mentally Ill
The killing of 27 people in Newtown, Conn., has focused the nation’s conversation on the issue of gun control. Legislators have announced they will revisit the federal ban on assault weapons which expired in 2004, while also looking to prohibit high-capacity magazines and to close loopholes that allow buyers to purchase firearms at gun shows without a background check.
However, mental health experts say there is something Congress must do immediately to keep the country safe and it has nothing to do with gun control-avoid the fiscal cliff.
The federal government has already cut public mental health services in the U.S. to the tune of $4 billion over the past five years and closed 4,000 psychiatric beds since 2008.
“Maybe that would be OK if we had replaced them with community services,” says Ron Honberg, the national director for policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Health. “When you close hospitals and do nothing for the patients leaving them, it is a prescription for disaster.