Opinion Republicans blame mental health for gun violence. So where is the money for care?

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America’s exceptional weapons culture is not the source of our extreme levels of gun violence and mass shootings, Republican politicians say. Something else must be to blame.

Recently, the more politically convenient explanation has been mental illness.

“We as a state, we as a society need to do a better job of mental health,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) after shooting 18 children and two teachers in Uwalde at the age of 18 using military-level weapons. acquired legally. “Anyone who shoots someone else has a mental health challenge. Period. We as a government need to find a way to address this mental health challenge and do something about it.

This argument was repeated by other Republicans, including Tony Gonzalez (Texas), Gov. Asa Hutchinson (Ark.) And former President Donald Trump in a speech to the National Arms Association Congress.

It doesn’t matter, apparently mental health advocates suggest that this is a scapegoat. Many people are struggling with mental health challenges in the United States and elsewhere; most do not resort to violence, let alone slaughter fourth-graders. Easy access to firearms in this country allows a potential mass shooter to pursue his violent ambitions, whether or not that person is diagnosed with mental health.

But let’s say that these politicians sincerely believe that identifying and treating mental health challenges – instead of, say, restricting access to effective killing machines – is the key to curbing mass shootings. If so, why didn’t they put their money where their mouths are?

Texas, for example, ranks last out of all 50 states in shared access to mental health care, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America. The ranking is based on available data on measures such as the proportion of adults and children with mental health problems who have not been able to receive treatment.

Among the reasons for this: Texas is one of a dozen states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, a public health insurance program that covers poor Americans and low-income Americans and is the country’s largest payer for mental health services.

The refusal of Texas officials to expand Medicaid does not seem to be rooted in public welfare or concerns about fiscal responsibility. The federal government has offered the state billions of dollars in incentives to expand Medicaid, most recently through last year’s U.S. rescue plan. These incentives would be online, lead to the release of government revenue forward, even after taking into account Texas’ new spending commitments, if it were to make more eligible residents. The expansion of Medicaid will also reduce the cost of hospitals, which currently provide a lot of uncompensated care for uninsured patients.

Instead, Texas chooses to be the state with the highest proportion of uninsured residents.

It’s getting worse. In April, Abbott transferred $ 211 million from the U.S. Health and Human Services Commission, which oversees mental health programs, according to NBC News. The money was transferred in support of Operation Lone Star, the controversial deployment of the National Guard and law enforcement resources by the border governor.

Texans have heard before about Abbott’s alleged deep concern for mental health services, at least after the gun massacre.

After previous mass shootings – including one on a A high school in the Houston area in 2018 and one aimed at Spaniards in El Paso Walmart in 2019. – Abbot blamed “mental health” as the main reason. To his credit, after the shooting in high school, he at least signed a series of bills designed (modestly) to improve state mental health initiatives, such as providing more mental health training to teachers.

But such measures were insufficient to improve the state’s appalling record for mental health services, according to a recent series of investigations by the Houston Chronicle.

These measures also apparently did not stop the mass shootings. Nor have the many other bills Abbott signed in recent years to loosen gun restrictions, such as a 2019 measure that gives more teachers access to guns in classrooms.

Texas political leaders are hardly alone in their insignificant attention to mental health issues, except when it is helpful to deviate from other political vulnerabilities.

Overall, the United States ranks worse than most other rich countries in a number of mental health indicators, including suicide rates and the ability of people to receive or afford professional help when experiencing emotional stress. Meanwhile, Republicans, including Trump, are working to eliminate public health programs and subsidies that allow for any scant access to the care that low- and middle-income Americans currently have.

For too many years, GOP politicians have shifted between preventing gun violence by investing in health care (instead of firearms restrictions) and later working to reduce access to care. Voters rarely seem to register a breakup. But the more massacres there are and the more often they occur, the harder it becomes to maintain these charades.

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