(As Prepared for Delivery)
Since I became the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, shortly after the December 14, 2012, elementary school shootings in Newtown, we began looking into the federal programs and resources devoted to mental health and mental illness. We did so to ensure federal dollars devoted to mental health are reaching those individuals with serious mental illness and helping them obtain the most effective care.
One lesson we must immediately draw from the Newtown tragedy is that we need to make it our priority to get those with serious mental illnesses, who are not presently being treated, into sound, evidence- based treatments.
In 2009, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that about 11 million U.S. adults had serious mental illness, and 40 percent of these individuals did not receive treatment. While the vast majority of individuals with a mental health condition are nonviolent, Director of the National Institute for Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel, told this subcommittee at our March 5 public forum that effective treatments, which include medication adherence and evidence-based psychosocial therapy, can reduce the risk of violent behavior fifteen-fold in persons with serious mental illness.
Getting these individuals into treatment is a crucial first task and SAMHSA, as the federal agency whose mission includes reducing the impact of mental illness on America’s communities, should be playing a central role in this effort. But based on our work to date, SAMHSA has not made the treatment of the seriously mentally ill a priority. In fact, I’m afraid serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may not be a concern at all to SAMHSA.