Today, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) applauded the inclusion of several gun violence prevention provisions in the FY2014 omnibus appropriations bill, which the Senate passed this evening by a vote of 72-26. Most notably, the bill includes $115 million for President Obama’s Now is the Time initiative to expand access to mental health services, $128 million for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct background checks, and $58.5 million for states to improve their criminal background check databases.
“For too long, individuals struggling with severe mental illness have not had the access they need to even the most basic treatment,” said Murphy. “Thankfully, the resources included in this bill will make it easier for these people – who are frequently the victims of violent crime – to get help. Furthermore, I applaud the bill’s commitment to improving our nation’s criminal background check system, which will help take guns out of the hands of criminals and prevent them committing heinous acts of violence against innocent victims.”
“Expanding access to mental health services is one of the single most important steps we can take to prevent gun violence,”Blumenthal said. “Expanding access to these services – coupled with the funds in this bill to strengthen federal and state criminal background check systems – will help ensure that those who are dangerously mentally ill get the help they need before they hurt themselves or others.”
The bill also includes $75 million for the National Institute of Justice to conduct a new Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, designed to study the causes of school violence and provide pilot grants to test state and local school safety initiatives, and $15 million to train local police on how to respond to active shooter situations.
“When an active shooter is on the loose, local police and other first responders often have mere minutes – sometimes seconds – to make life or death decisions,” Blumenthal said. “Funds provided by this bill to train police how to respond to these situations – along with a new initiative to research, test, and implement best practices in school safety – will help protect those we love from gun violence.”
“Part of preventing future mass tragedies in schools is understanding what leads to this type of extreme violence and how we can better protect our kids,” Murphy added. “Funding for the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative and law enforcement training included in this bill will not only help identify how these acts of violence can occur, but also give law enforcement the tools they need to respond even more effectively.”
A complete list of the provisions is below.
--$15 million for Mental Health First Aid grants, which will allow teachers to reach 750,000
students with the goal of recognizing those with mental illness early and referring them to
--$40 million for Project Aware, which will provide 20 grants to State Education Authorities
(SEAs) for comprehensive programs in 1,000-1,500 schools to get students with mental
health issues referred to needed services;
--$40 million for behavioral health workforce training which will add an estimated 4,375
social workers, psychologists, therapists and other health professionals to the health
--$20 million for programs targeting young adults at high risk of mental illness.