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Mental health community supports Obama’s orders

Updated: February 19, 2013 2:22PM



Local officials say they don’t know what effect improving mental health might have on gun violence, but they support any effort that puts an emphasis on an area they say greatly needs it.

President Barack Obama’s list of 23 executive actions to help combat gun violence included several that would help enhance mental health services in the country. Barbara Layton, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness Porter County, said that inclusion was a “great thing.”

“Anything that brings to the forefront the lack of mental health treatment is important,” Layton said.

The orders include creating mental health parity, clarifying the scope of mental health services under Medicaid and creating a dialogue on mental health among federal departments.

Elliott Miller, director of marketing and development at Portage-based Porter-Starke Services, said the orders sound like they are a step in the right direction.

“It’s good that mental health is involved in that discussion,” Miller said.

Although most people suffering from mental health issues are not violent, the country should still work to make sure the small group that might become violent gets help, he said.

Layton said she hopes the orders eventually mean real benefits for the local community, especially through parity. She said her group already works with police officers to train them on dealing with mentally ill people. Police, she said, know to take mentally ill people to a hospital for evaluation. However, there usually aren’t enough hospital beds for them, so they’re released back home, something that happened to Layton’s own son.

“He’s definitely a danger to himself and to others, but we have no place to put him now,” she said of the situation.

Mental health patients also often find their insurance companies will cover only some medications, even though people react differently to each one and might need ones that aren’t covered.

“They need to be consistent,” she said. “We need this mental health parity.”



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