Washington – The Weapons Safety Act, passed late Thursday by the US Senate, will extend the eligibility for a mental health program created by Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow to all states.
The vote was 65-33, with 15 Republican senators voting alongside Democrats in support of the package, which has been hailed as the most significant arms legislation in 30 years. The chamber is expected to pass the law no earlier than Friday.
Stabenow’s measure, co-authored by Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, is reimbursing states through Medicaid for mental health and addiction services provided by federally qualified community health clinics that are required to offer 24-hour crisis services, among other items.
“We know that more than half of all firearm deaths are suicides and people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than to commit it,” Stabenov said in a statement after the vote.
“This bill is based on my Transformational Behavioral Health Initiative to provide high-quality mental health and addiction services to communities across the country to provide people with the care they need as part of the health care system.
The program launched in 2016 with eight state-funded states, and two more were added in 2020, including Michigan. These states will receive another four years of participation in the program under legislation passed Thursday, according to Stabenow’s office. The bill also provides $ 40 million in planning grants for new countries in the program.
More than 435 clinics are part of the program nationwide now, including individual clinics that can apply to join, Stabenov said this week. Anyone can go to one of the certified behavioral health clinics in the community of care, whether they have insurance or not.
“Everyone always says that a big part of the problem (gun violence) here is that the mental health system doesn’t work,” Blunt told reporters this week.
“And so we were able to go back and say, ‘Look, we have examples of 10 states and 30 others that not only work, but they know it works.’ Let’s continue and expand.
The Stabenow-Blunt measure is part of a broader Senate package agreed after the mass shootings in Uwalde, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford County High School that killed four students.
The bill includes funding for anti-violence efforts, school mental health centers and support for suicide hotlines.
It will also step up past checks on gun buyers under the age of 21 and make it easier to seize weapons from people who threaten to kill themselves or others in countries that take such initiatives, as well as people who have committed domestic violence.
The bill also breaks down arms trafficking, expands who should register as a federal firearms dealer; including so-called “straw purchases” when someone buys a weapon for someone else.
“I’m in the camp, which says it’s not enough” to tackle gun violence, Stabenov told MSNBC on Thursday. “But I believe this is the step we can take now. On the mental health side, this is a huge step.”
Stabenow introduced the Blunt Mental Health Excellence Act in 2013. The impetus was the desire to change the funding model for community-based mental health treatment and addiction so that it is not limited to subsidies that “start and stop ”as part of the health system.
The program has created federal criteria for participating clinics to meet high quality standards and offer services, including 24-hour crisis psychiatric care, outpatient services, immediate screening, risk assessments, and integrated substance abuse treatment assistance.
The model is designed to keep those in need of treatment away from prisons and hospitals and off the streets, with the aim of reducing costs and burdens on prisons, police and emergency departments.
Stabenow highlighted data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showing that those who received services from the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic program for six months or more had a 63% reduction in emergency room visits for behavioral health issues. , 60% reduction in time spent in prison and 41% decrease in homelessness among clients.
The congressional budget service said it would cost more than $ 8 billion to expand the program to all states.