Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association

President Takes on Guns, Mental Health

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President Takes on Guns, Mental Health

(McLean, VA, January 6, 2016) President Obama announced this week a collection of largely executive and regulatory actions related to gun safety in an effort to respond and curtail gun violence in America. PRA appreciates that the President indicated that individuals with mental health issues are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.  View fact sheet here: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer.

The President has included among his proposals several related to mental health including two measures to facilitate reporting of individuals with mental health issues to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

- The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule on January 4 that clarifies HIPAA authority of a limited set of providers to disclose to the NICS individuals whose mental health status would disqualify them from legal gun ownership under the law.  Read HHS fact sheet and link to final rule.

- The Social Security Administration (SSA) will begin a formal rule making process, on which the public will have opportunity to comment, to facilitate reporting of currently held SSA data regarding individuals with documented mental issues to the NICS.  The President has not indicated an expansion of exclusion criteria for firearm acquisition related to mental health. Rather, the President proposes to include potentially relevant data held by SSA, which does not currently report into the NICS, in the background check process. Examples of data would include beneficiaries with documented mental health issues and disabilities and those who have been deemed legally incompetent by a court of law pursuant to SSA proceedings. 

- Proposed $500 million in additional mental health funding to improve access to mental health services and increase the capacity of the behavioral health workforce. Further details have not been released but such additional funding would require congressional authorization through legislation. It is not clear if the President intends to introduce legislation, include a proposal in the forthcoming FY 2017 budget this February, or otherwise engage Congress. The President was silent regarding current mental health legislation under consideration in Congress.