“Yeah, I think it was,” Republican Senator Thom Tillis says of Cornyn’s unscientific news clipping.
The Legacy of JFK
For Tillis, what? the disparate group of progressives and conservatives really united was data — just not gun data. Instead, he says, their negotiations were most influenced by former President John F. Kennedy.
On October 31, 1963, Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, a measure aimed at replacing asylums with community-based mental health clinics. Three weeks later, Kennedy was shot and buried the promise of his vision to reform the mental health system in the US. In the decades that followed, communities across the country dumped shelters, but solid funding for local clinics never materialized.
In 2014, Congress passed the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which promised to be the realization of JFK’s now half-century-old dream. Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan teamed up to push through those mental health reforms, and they’ve since followed the pilot programs their law initially set up in eight states. Over a five-year period, these federally supported Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics had “63.2% fewer emergency room visits for behavioral problems, saw a 40.7% decrease in homelessness, and spent 60.3% less time in correctional facilities.” the department said. of Health and Human Services.
Those results and related statistics proved magnetic to both the fiscal conservatives and the progressives who are turning their backs on the police.
“It was critical because other people wanted to do something and had ideas, but none of it was developed or actionable,” Stabenow says. “People felt it was real. It was tangible.”
A huge selling point is that in order to qualify for the federal program, states are required to set up 24-hour psychiatric crisis centers. That lessens police accountability, which has been appreciated by law enforcement groups across the country, who don’t want officers charged with mental health duties. Therefore, these local efforts were nationalized this summer as part of the compromise measure.
“There were a few around the country, but no national effort to make this happen,” Blunt says. “We had a program that worked and delivered significant results, widely supported by law enforcement, by emergency departments, by families who were not getting the kind of help they needed for the mental health issues that peaceful people faced.”
The Blunt-Stabenow mental health program provided Senate negotiators with about five years of unequivocal data from states as diverse as Oklahoma and New York. That turned out to be essential for its recording.
“We started using as much data as possible to say, ‘This is hypothetical, this is measurable,'” Tillis says. “It was tangible.”
That’s also why Cornyn isn’t wrong when he swears at the gun control label. About two-thirds of the funding put into the new federal “guns law” goes to behavioral health. Lawmakers, based on the results of those local pilot programs, expect to see a nationwide trickle down as police (at least on paper) are replaced by much-needed mental health workers.
“Eventually we went, ‘What are the root causes?'” Tillis says. “If we look at reducing gun deaths and looking at behavioral health, which is related to many of these active shooting environments, it used data to say, ‘What decisions could we make that are most likely to have the best outcome?’”
Then there’s the US-Mexican border. Mexico estimates that some 2 million proudly American-made weapons have flooded the streets and those of its own southern neighbors, causing incomprehensible – and unquantifiable – bloodshed. And the violence, in turn, causes hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, risking death every year to head north.
One of the most dramatic changes incorporated into the new law fundamentally changes the relationship between the United States and Mexico, as well as between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (aka the Northern Triangle).