U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., toured the Independence Center in St. Louis Saturday, aiming to draw attention to mental health legislation and the importance of community mental health centers.
Blunt is trying to drum up support for legislation he has co-sponsored to expand community mental health services. The proposed legislation would create a pilot program in 10 states establishing criteria for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.
Blunt says recent high-profile acts of violence, like the Sandy Hook shooting, have drawn attention to the need for more consistent mental health care.
“The weapon may be different, the venue may be different, but somebody with an unaddressed behavioral health problem is consistently there,” Blunt said. “It’s important to say that if you have a mental health problem, you’re much more likely to be the victim of a crime than to perpetrate a crime. But still it draws attention to this.”
A recent Kansas City Star editorial argued that the best opportunity to provide consistent care for those with mental illness would have been to expand Medicaid under the new health care law. But Blunt says there are better intermediate steps.
"Probably the first step is to expand, for people who are on Medicaid, to be sure that behavioral health is treated by the government like other health problems.”
The Independence Center each year provides support services and workforce integration to about 1,100 people with severe and persistent mental illness. Blunt praised the success of the Independence Center in integrating people with severe mental illness into the workforce.