APA’s Anderson meets with Obama administration officials to provide input on violence prevention proposals

APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, participated in one of several White House meetings convened by a presidential task force, led by Vice President Joe Biden, on gun violence.

APA CEO Norman B. Anderson, PhD, was part of a White House meeting Jan. 9 to discuss ideas surrounding violence prevention in the wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn. He was one of about 20 representatives of mental health groups in a session co-chaired by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Sebelius opened the meeting by talking about President Obama's commitment to see something good come out of the Newtown tragedy, according to Anderson. She said the president sees mental health as an important piece of the White House’s plan, which is why this group was brought together.

Each participant was asked to talk briefly about his or her group’s perspective and recommendations. “There was clear unanimity on a number of issues, including the need to improve all aspects of mental health services for both children and adults; to reduce stigma and educate the public about mental health; to delink mental illness with violence; to make parity a true reality; and to deal with mental health workforce issues,” Anderson said afterward.

In the meeting, Anderson said one of the most important things the president could do would be to use his last term in office to bring mental illness out of the shadows and “make it his priority to change the national dialogue about mental illness and to ensure that every child and adult who needs mental health care could receive it, without barriers or limitations.”

Anderson also cited the need to fully implement all the mental health provisions in the Affordable Care Act. “In particular, I emphasized that mental health care should not be ‘optional’ in any health plan, and that psychologists and other behavioral health professionals must be part of all health care teams,” Anderson said.

Anderson also provided the administration officials with a number of recommendations to prevent gun-related violence and support mental health, including improved access to mental, and behavioral health and substance use services, support for violence prevention research, and community and school-based violence prevention programs.