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APA Statement on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

  • June 24, 2022

Washington, D.C., June 24, 2022 — The American Psychiatric Association (APA) today commends Congress for passing the first meaningful gun safety legislation in 30 years and looks forward to President Biden signing it into law. The bipartisan deal is a long overdue but important step in combatting the public health crisis of gun violence.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938) includes several APA-supported gun violence prevention provisions, including:

  • Providing states grants to create, implement and improve extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) or red flag laws.
  • Requiring additional background checks for purchasers of guns who are under 21, including consideration of juvenile criminal records.
  • Funding for community-based violence prevention initiatives.

In addition to gun violence prevention provisions, the package also includes significant support for mental health programs. As the medical and mental health communities agree, linking mental illness with violence isn't accurate and can perpetuate stigma and further can discourage those with mental illness or substance use disorders from seeking help.

However, the mental health provisions included in the package will help to improve access to care for those who need it, including:

  • Almost $8 billion for the Medicaid Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics program.
  • $150 million in state funding to support the implementation of the 9-8-8 Lifeline and to improve their crisis response and prevention programs.
  • $500 million through the School-Based Mental Health Services program under Medicaid.
  • $250 million to states through the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant.
  • $80 million for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access grant program.
  • $60 million to support mental health training for primary care providers.
  • Assistance to states on how to increase access to telehealth services, among other items.

“It’s important progress that Congress was able to come to an agreement on several steps toward stopping the public health crisis of gun violence in the United States,” said APA President Rebecca Brendel, M.D., J.D. “Since more than half of gun deaths are suicides, the mental health funding in this bill is potentially life-saving.”

“We view this as the first step in a process that needs to continue,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “While APA supports background checks and red flag laws, our members agree on the need for stronger gun safety policy, and we will continue to advocate for further efforts to curtail the public health crisis of gun violence.”

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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