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Commentrary: Address the mental health issues

Toni Boucher

Toni Boucher

Editor’s Note: Sen. Boucher released this statement on the mental health component of SB 1160: An Act on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety. She voted in favor of the bill.

These proposals may be heralded as the toughest in the country, but for so many residents they do not get to the heart of the problem nor confront more directly the underlying cause of these horrific acts of violence, mental illness.

It’s time to stop being politically correct by avoiding those issues surrounding individuals with serious mental health problems. The governments’ desire to cut costs by shutting down mental health institutions including one located in Newtown — Fairfield Hills —puts public safety at risk.

One constituent recently recounted his own son’s death at the hands of a Fairfield Hills patient. The constituent’s son died when a released mentally deranged patient — who didn’t receive oversight or the medication required for his condition — decided to burn down the apartment building their son was living in.

This complex gun bill doesn’t address issues families endure when they deal with their own severely mentally ill children that put their family and the general public at risk.

The mental health portion of the bill does address insurance coverage. There is a glaring omission however. Hospital officials around Connecticut tell us their psychiatric units are filled with patients with severe mental health issues who need emergency placement in a mental health facility but they cannot find a bed. During the past decade many institutions well equipped to serve the mentally ill were forced to close due to cost-saving measures — including Fairfield hills facility in Newtown. This leaves doctors with few options.

Until government leaders and elected officials have the courage to admit there’s a place for mental health institutions with professionals who can oversee treatment of those select few with severe mental illness problems and should invest in them, this issue will not be resolved in a manner that protects the public. We need to stop avoiding issues like involuntary commitment by creating studies. Our society should be just as passionate about this as they are on gun laws and demand that legislators take action on mental issues that may actually do more than gun regulations.

Furthermore, legislators haven’t even broached the subject of violence in the media including television, movies and extremely violent video games that desensitize and even glamorize violence in the minds of young impressionable children.

 

Sen. Toni Boucher represents Redding in the state’s 26th Senate District.

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