{{show_title_date || "New bill improves access to mental health care, 9/20/13, 9:44 AM ET"}}

Health reform to ‘fill the holes’ exposed by Navy Yard


As questions linger on how a mentally unstable Navy Yard shooter passed a security clearance allowing him to go on a shooting rampage, lawmakers are moving to prevent future tragedies by focusing on mental health—an issue they hope isn’t torpedoed by combining it with gun control background check legislation.

Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, longtime champion for mental health reform, has been working on bill that she hopes will “fill the holes” that allowed Aaron Alexis, the alleged Navy Yard shooter, to slip through the health system.

“If we strengthen community health services and we fund them at the same level of physical health services in the community – we have a 24 hour psychiatric facility – at least family members, neighbors, police officers have a place to start,” said Stabenow on Friday’s The Daily Rundown.

Her bill, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, seeks to be a bipartisan effort to establish community behavioral health centers with extended Medicaid coverage, support health information technology, and improve the overall mental health infrastructure.

The current refocus on mental health reform stems from an exhausting grid-locked debate over gun control that hasn’t achieved fruition. Now, some legislators, including Democratic Rep. Ron Barber of Arizona, who discussed his bill Thursday on The Daily Rundown, are trying to break away from the conflict by focusing on the health angle in order to pass their legislation.

Stabenow said that she would be open to coupling her bill with either health or gun legislation in order to increase the likelihood of its passing.

“We will look at any opportunity. If it’s coupling it with guns and that gets it done, great. If it’s separate, if it’s coupling it with health legislation, great,” she said. “We just need to get it done. This keeps happening over and over again and people across the country are saying enough is enough, we can do something about it.”

Check out Sen. Stabenow’s full conversation with Chuck above.