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A Letter from Director Kerlikowske on Gun Violence and Substance Abuse

posted Feb 15, 2013, 11:22 AM by Maria Geueke   [ updated Feb 15, 2013, 11:26 AM ]
Dear Friend,
Last week, President Obama announced a plan to help protect our children and communities from gun violence.   The President's Plan, developed by the Vice President with input from Americans across the country, calls for closing background check loopholes, banning military-style assault weapons, making schools safer, and increasing access to mental health services.
As a key ONDCP stakeholder and an individual involved in keeping our communities safe, we are forwarding the plan and want to draw your attention to specific parts of it.  
The President's plan includes tools to create a safer climate at schools across the country, including putting up to 1,000 new school resource officers and school counselors on the job.   It also includes improving screening and referral for behavioral health resources and calls for finalizing requirements of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. In addition, the President's plan proposes $50 million to train social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals in schools. 
We know that early intervention and treatment is key to preventing a substance use disorder or mental illness from progressing into a chronic condition.  And a key risk factor for committing violent acts among individuals with mental illness is whether the individual abuses drugs or alcohol. Recent research shows that those with a severe mental illness and a substance use disorder have a greatly increased relative risk for violence (more than 11 times) compared to those with neither diagnosis.
In the coming months, we look forward to working with Congress, our Federal partners, and stakeholders across the country to carry out the President's ambitious plan to reach the 85 percent of those struggling with substance use disorders and 60 percent of mental health sufferers who do not receive much needed help and treatment.  The Affordable Care Act will provide one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance abuse coverage in a generation by extending health coverage to 30 million Americans and ensuring that insurance plans cover mental health and substance abuse services at parity with other benefits. 
As the President said in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, "We won't be able to stop every violent act, but if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation, all of us, to try."
R. Gil Kerlikowske
Katie Greene
Associate Director

Quinn Staudt
Deputy Associate Director for Stakeholder Outreach

Jacqueline Hackett
Deputy Associate Director for Policy