It’s been three years this month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and legislators are still fighting for policy changes they believe will help to prevent such tragedies. Proposals range from gun control laws to enhanced funding for mental health treatment and everything in between.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) this week released its third annual survey of state mental health legislation, and found 23 states increased mental health spending in 2015, compared to 29 states in 2014 and 36 in 2013. For the second year in a row, Minnesota and Virginia stand out as states investing in mental health. New York also invested significantly in 2015 to strengthen its public mental health system, according to NAMI.
Arizona, Minnesota, Utah, Virginia and Washington State passed several supportive bills, including measures for criminal justice and psychiatric inpatient care.
"Tragedies are happening every day,” said NAMI Executive Director Mary Giliberti, in a statement. “They include people living with mental illness who end up in emergency rooms, jail or living homeless on the street. They include young people whose symptoms aren't recognized early enough to avoid the worst outcomes. They include deaths by suicide."
NAMI is looking for comprehensive legislation at the federal level.
Eleven states have increased investment in mental health each year of the survey, 2013 to 2015: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington.
Three states cut mental health spending every year during the same period: Alaska, North Carolina and Wyoming.
Read the 74-page NAMI report here.