Many Oklahomans Support Mental Healthcare Aspect Of Gun Control Plan

Wednesday, January 16th 2013, 10:20 pm
By: Tess Maune

Both Oklahoma Senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn agree with President Barack Obama's promise to improve mental healthcare.

Professionals in the mental health industry say the President's proposal is a step in the right direction to remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

And the President was very careful to emphasize that most people with mental illness are not violent.

President Obama has already drafted a letter that will soon go out to healthcare providers nationwide. It's to clarify that federal law does not prevent healthcare providers from reporting threats of violence, made by patients, to police.

"That person expresses to me some sort of direct threat on someone else; I have a duty to warn and a duty to report that. That has not changed," said Tulsa Mental Health Association Executive Director Mike Brose.

1/16/2013 Related Story: Oklahoma Lawmakers React To Obama's $500 Million Gun Violence Package

Brose said, although reporting possible threats has always been required, some providers have concerns about sharing those private details.

"They do get worried about breaching confidentiality. I think it could add to the awareness," Brose said.

The President is looking to take it one step further, though, proposing that background checks include any history of mental illness.

In Oklahoma, there's currently no database that tracks patients who may be a potential threat.

Brose said he supports the expansion of background checks and keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals.

"People who have mental illnesses should be able to get confidential treatment, just like for any other health condition," Brose said. "As far as background checks, mental health advocates have long supported and understood the importance of providing accurate, appropriate information to the federal gun database."

Brose said the biggest barriers for his industry are that most people don't view mental illness as a health issue, and he said we're not putting enough resources toward getting people help.

"But we don't have enough. People who need those services can't get them now," Brose said. "We need to put more funding into funding more services, so people can have easy access. That money, the ability to pay, will never be a barrier. We need them to have very fast, easy access."

President Obama has pledged $80 million for mental health efforts.

Brose said he doesn't believe patients will stop seeking help, even if some private information is disclosed for background checks.