Since December 2012, at least 194 children have been fatally shot in the U.S., according to Mother Jones. The Obama administration has been vigilant in expressing its concern about gun control over the course of this year since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that killed 26 people, including 20 first graders. In furthering efforts to ensure that no other family has to experience what the families of Newtown have, Vice President Joe Biden is set to announce $100 million in mental health funding Tuesday as the anniversary of the shooting approaches.
According to Reuters, Biden will discuss the new funding with Newtown families as well as mental health advocates. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) will disperse the money, half of which will go to Community Health Centers, and the other half will finance the construction of facilities across the U.S. that focus solely on mental and behavioral health services. "HHS will soon issue a $50 million funding opportunity to help Community Health Centers establish or expand behavioral health services for people living with mental illness or addiction," one official told Reuters." Additionally, the USDA has set a goal of financing $50 million for the construction, expansion, or improvement of mental health facilities in rural areas over the next three years."
Last month, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the deparment would take steps to better enforce the 2008 Mental Health Parity Act, which would help to make mental health care both affordable and accessible. The hope is that by enforcing the law, co-payments and deductibles for mental health benefits will match those for medical and surgical benefits.
According to The Huffington Post, Adam Lanza, the shooter in Newtown, had “significant mental health issues” and “obsessional and anxious traits.” Lanza was also diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder that impacts how a person socializes and communicates with others. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition is one of many autistic spectrum disorders. Most people are diagnosed with the disorder as a child. Symptoms of Asperger’s include propensity to engage in one-sided conversations, lack of facial expression, intense obsession with one or two subjects, and having a lower capacity to understand and empathize with others.
The funding announcement comes as the families of Newtown shooting victims prepare for the somber anniversary of an event that changed the way the nation views both mental health and gun control. According to Here And Now, a Boston radio news program, the town has decided against having public events commemorating the first anniversary. Instead, they have created a website where people can post tributes and loving messages to the families of the victims.
“Unlike 9/11, where it was really a national event in the sense that the nation was attacked by an outside force — it was al Qaeda attacking the country — this was a deranged individual killing very innocent children,” said Newtown resident and psychiatrist John Woodall. “So the families experienced it very personally. Although the grief has been shared nationally and internationally, to them it is a very personal event. So I think that they wanted to have this time to themselves for private reflection. Also that what happened last year, with the crush of the media, was more than they could bear.”