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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Mental health bill pushed

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 07:53 PM

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U.S. Representative Rich Nugent said it's time to stop sending billions of dollars to foreign countries that hate us and funnel some of that money to states to help in the fight against mental illness.

The tragedy in Newtown, Conn., which left 26 people dead, underscores the need to combat the mental health crisis in this county, he said.

Nugent said Hollywood also needs to take a hard look at the movies it makes that tend to glorify violence. That, along with graphically violent video games, can contribute to the problem by sending someone with mental illness over the edge, he said.

"Most people can play those things and it doesn't turn them into a mass murderer, but someone who is unstable, it can flip a switch," he said.

Nugent, R-Fla., said he is working on a "Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act" bill with Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., that would boost state funding.

"The federal government should not be running mental health care, but the feds should put money toward block granting states with achievable results to combat the root cause of these people killing each other," he said.

The money could be used to train law enforcement officers to better recognize mental issues, he said.

"Look at our jails, where 30-plus percent in there have mental health problems," Nugent said. "The system we have is just flat-out busted."

Nugent said banning assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines is not the answer, and is simply a cop-out.

"That's a bumper sticker approach to a very serious problem," he said.

Nugent said guns alone are not solely responsible for recent tragedies.

"If someone wants to kill someone, they don't necessarily need a handgun," he said. "Anything can be a deadly weapon, like a pipe."

Nugent said it makes no sense to continue to send money to Pakistan or other countries who routinely denigrate the United States.

"We need to reduce spending overseas and help Americans," he said. "That goes a longer way in stemming this problem."

The criminal justice system is being used as a mental health system and that makes no sense, he said.

That is unfair to people with mental concerns, to law enforcement officers and to taxpayers, who end up paying for higher incarceration costs and overcrowded jails.

Among other things, the Nugent-Franken bill would:

Nugent's announcement comes the same week that County Commissioner Diane Rowden proposed a countywide mental health alliance be formed, which would unite the two dozen or so health, veterans and educational agencies in combating the problem.

United, there is a greater chance of obtaining state and federal grants, she said.

And, best of all, it costs taxpayers nothing, Rowden added.

County commissioners are scheduled to discuss that proposal at a June 15 workshop. (352) 544-5290

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