Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 24, 2014

Elliot Rodger Sparks New Call for Mental Health Bill

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The case of Elliot Rodger sparked a renewed call for a mental health bill from Murphy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Elliot Rodger — the man accused by police of committing a massacre Friday night in California — sparked a renewed call to pass a mental health bill in Congress.

“Our hearts break for the victims and families affected by the tragedy near Santa Barbara. We pray for their souls to find peace. But I am also angered because once again, our mental health system has failed and more families have been destroyed because Washington hasn’t had the courage to fix it,” said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.

“How many more people must lose their lives before we take action on addressing cases of serious mental illness?”

Murphy says he has a solution: He calls his bill the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act.”

“Washington must take action on my bill,” he said.

Murphy, a clinical psychologist, said in a statement Saturday that he will hold a briefing Thursday on his committee’s report on mental health, written over the course of a year following the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

Among the report’s findings are a push to give law enforcement and emergency medical personnel better training on mental health.

Murphy says his bill would also expand access to psychiatric treatment.

It would also encourage states to set a new standard for committing people — that they need treatment, not that they present an imminent danger. It would also make it easier for family members to take action.

Elliot Rodger’s family had reached out to police after he posted disturbing YouTube videos, according to news reports. But police who interviewed Rodger, the son of a Hollywood director, declined to commit him for treatment.

The bill has 86 cosponsors, including 50 Republicans and 36 Democrats.

A rival bill by Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., one of the most endangered Democrats in the House, would focus on broader mental health issues rather than focus on the severely mentally ill.

As he told CQ Roll Call earlier this month:

“I know how this system works and I know that if you’re talking about severe or serious mental illness, it can start at any age,” said Barber, who was among the injured in 2011 after a gunman opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others. “The best thing we can do is early identification and treatment — that’s what prevents people from becoming more severely involved.”

Barber wrote an op-ed for Roll Call earlier this month talking about his bill.

A spokesman for Murphy had ripped the Democratic bill’s approach told CQ Roll Call as “a placebo” that would maintain the status quo.

Barber’s bill, the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act, has four cosponsors.

The mental health bills have another advantage that might give it a better shot in Congress — they avoid the politically charged issue of guns.

A Senate package of mental health bills was included in the gun background checks measure that fell to a GOP-led filibuster last year.

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders have repeatedly talked about dealing with the issue of mental health in the wake of massacres, including Newtown.

  • a mom

    murphy’s bill strips the rights of people who are identified as mentally ill. that is not acceptable. i decide what aspects of my medical care to share with my family, not anyone else! and also, who decides someone else “needs treatment” and should be committed? the “imminent harm” wording is necessary and appropriate. argh!

    • Jack Everett

      The bill does not strip anyone of anything it provides much needed mental health help for those that need it.

    • bgal4

      absolutely FALSE

      • a mom

        There are numerous issues of deep concern with this bill. My statement is not false. This proposed legislation allows for health information to be given to other individuals without the care-recipient’s consent.

        (http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3717) HR 3717:
        “Requires the caregiver of an individual with a serious mental illness to be treated as the individual’s personal representative with respect to protected health information, even though the individual has not consented to disclosure of such information to the caregiver, when the individual’s service provider reasonably believes it is necessary for protected health information to be made available to the caregiver in order to protect the individual’s health, safety, or welfare or the safety of one or more other individuals.”

        Some might say, well it is to protect their health or safety. However, if a man has a heart attack, for example, and does not want his child to know what medications he is taking, or his wife to know that he is supposed to cut back on the red meat, that is his choice, regardless of the health consequences, and that choice is respected and protected by law. Changing the laws just for those with mental illness strips people of their right to privacy.

        In addition, I have deep concerns about the “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” propositions. As someone who has been hospitalized on multiple occasions, but is quite stable and healthy now, I have done extensive research on treatment options. I have come to the conclusion that medication is not an appropriate treatment for me. I’ve never found it to be effective and the side effects are unbearable. The idea that if I were to become unstable again (and this could happen, I’m a relatively young woman), I could lose my choice and my personal autonomy is both terrifying to me and reprehensible.

  • Charles Hugnes

    Elliot Rodger was in therapy since 8 ….the cops were called to his home for a
    mental health check …he checked out fine …so how will the Morphy’s
    bill help ?

  • Charles Hugnes

    Clint Van Zandt said on MSNBC everything was done ….he needed a second line of defense family and friends.
    One
    thing is he was a very wealthy kid so he was never going to be in the
    public system. This kid could have bought a hospital
    or at least his parents could have. He
    was seen regularly by very expensive psychiatric care. So it kind of
    goes to prove psychiatrist are useless in preventing this kind of
    horrible thing. It is also goes to prove how corrupt psychiatry is that
    they aren’t saying so loudly.

  • Emily Pierce

    First Murphy needs to stop stigmatizing mental illness everytime there is a mass shooting. Roger does not have a mental illness. There is a distinct difference between a psychopath and a person who suffers from a mental illness and Roger is a psychopath. Clearly, anyone who is in the right frame of mind to plan out a clear attack such as Roger did days prior to the incident does not suffer from any form of serious mental illness or a mental illness. Murphy should be ashamed to call himself a psychologist and stop trying to promote his bill through a tragedy such as this. Murphy is a sad case of a politician!

    • bgal4

      foolish talk from an uninformed source

  • Jack Everett

    We can never hope to stem gun violence without support for mentally challenged people. Big Pharma pill pushing is not the answer. Mass murder is not a stable mental condition and neither is supporting murdering politicians a person does not agree with. LaPierre and his deluded corporate followers are not an answer they are a big part of the problem.

    • kevinp2

      Nice going there, labeling the 5 million members of the NRA as child murderers. You must be one of the tolerant and inclusive crowd.

      • Jack Everett

        Your the perfect example why we need to bring back mental institutions.

  • http://www.youtube.com zorbitor

    Misdemeanor domestic violence convictions already remove gun rights. I think preventive measures could appear in the language of the next re authorization of VAWA

  • RedneckCryonicist

    And this Elliot Rodger youngster goes to show why a rational society wouldn’t leave something as important as young men’s sexual socialization to the haphazard when it becomes clear that a boy can’t figure out how to negotiate and close the deal with any girl at a developmentally appropriate age. Parents should start to worry if their son hasn’t stumbled into this by age 20 or so. These young men need interventions by that age, like coaching in dating skills and possibly even working with sex therapists and sexual surrogates. If Elliot’s parents had done this for their son a few years back, that might have defused his growing alienation from womankind and given him the rudiments for building an adult sex life.

    And no, prostitutes don’t really solve the problem. Prostitutes don’t teach young men the adult skill set they need to have competent relationships with women.

    BTW, I find it weird that many progressive commentators on the story say that Elliot should have seen prostitutes. I thought progressives believe that the cash nexus causes alienation in capitalist society; the commodification of natural human interactions like in prostitution does violence to human nature. In their utopian alternative, human relationships would develop organically without the intervention of the market and the exchange of money.

    Instead these progressives tell male virgins, hey, you only deserve alienated capitalist sex with prostitutes, buddy! No healthy, voluntary sexual relationships with women for you! Male virgins should reject this kind of “advice” because it shows a real lack of respect for them.

  • ShadrachSmith

    This is an old gun control tactic, make it a medical problem…then you just squeeze up the standards til you get everybody’s guns. This happened in NY state last year. The mental health people matched up records with gun ownership lists and showed up with warrants to seize the guns of every person who had been given script for an antipsychotic.

    This article is just to warm you up to ‘framing’ the issue of gun control as a public health issue…which it isn’t…it’s a constitutional right…which is different.

    • Jack Everett

      Link please. Chapter and verse?

      • ShadrachSmith

        Do your own searches. Start with ny gun owners burn registration then try NY SAFE act enforcement, then go to California gun seizures and you will find links to stories about Obamacare and executive orders.

        It is real, it is happening now in NY and California, and it is all about finding a government regulation that can get around the second amendment.

        I’m not arguing the case in front of you as a judge, I’m just describing the rhetorical exercise represented by the author’s work. Dig it, if you can :-)

  • Ford Fischer

  • Stephen

    I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in New York and to me it is obvious after reading Elliot Rodger’s manifesto and a little bit about him that he met criteria for at least 2 personality disorders (Avoidant Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder) in addition to being on the Aspergers spectrum. To say that he was not mentally ill is highly ridiculous. It is a shame that this happened as this could have been prevented had Mr. Rodgers gotten proper mental health treatment.

    • Jack Everett

      So just where does the mentally ill get this treatment today? Since Reagan closed the mental institutions to support pill pushing big Pharma The mentally disabled have nowhere to turn and they can’t even be forced to take their pills.

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