Details about Friday’s horrific shooting spree
at a Connecticut elementary school are still emerging, and it remains unknown whether
the suspected shooters suffered from underlying mental health issues. It’s entirely possible that the perpetrators of today’s shooting were of sound mind. But the fact remains: in America, it’s currently easier for a poor person to get a gun than it is for them to get treatment for mental health issues.
And then there’s the cost of more extensive care.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a mere 7.1 percent of all American adults receive mental health services
. Most of these Americans’ care is covered by private insurance, with children, poorer, and more elderly Americans being covered through public insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. An additional ten percent are uninsured. But out-of-pocket costs for both inpatient and outpatient mental health services remain staggeringly high:
Obamacare will require health plans on statewide exchanges to cover mental health services
as one of its
“essential health benefit” categories. But states ultimately carry most of the discretion when it comes to defining what these services are and how much funding they get, and the coverage won’t help Americans in the absence of active efforts to identify and treat mental health disorders.
Many states do require mental health evaluations and background checks before allowing their residents to purchase a gun. But doing an evaluation isn’t the same thing as actually treating people with ongoing mental health conditions.