How we are changing the conversation and policies on mental health & gun violence
Upon passage of I-1491 (Extreme Risk Protection Orders) in November 2016, Washington became one of a handful of states with this life-saving law on the books. In addition to legislative roadblocks, crafting the policy presented its own challenges. One recurring challenge was educating the public that the real risk of those who are a danger to themselves and to others is based on behavioral indicators, not a mental illness diagnosis. The Alliance is dedicated to continuing the hard work of destigmatizing those living with mental illness and to supporting effective, data-driven policies and interventions where mental health issues meet firearm ownership.
June 20, 2017: The Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation hosted a day-long Summit bringing together state and national GVP and mental health experts to present the latest research on the intersection of mental health and gun violence. We also invited legislators into the mix, to host a candid discussion about how to create effective policy without further stigmatization of those living with mental illness.
For our gathering, attended by upwards of 60 mental health providers, public health employees and GVP advocates, we set out to reframe the real risks for interpersonal violence, address the suicide epidemic, and present effective intervention approaches. It was a day of compassionate learning, breaking down barriers, and focusing on policies and programs that move the needle on gun violence.
Experts in the GVP field presented compelling data
- Suicide as a percentage of total firearms deaths in WA state is 75%, compared to 61% nationally.
- Serious mental illness on its own contributes very little to overall violence towards others, just 4% of total. In the case of suicide however, up to 47-74% of violence towards self is attributable to serious mental illness alone.
- Case-control studies in the US have found the presence of a firearm is a strong risk factor for suicide.
- Success of policies to restrict firearm access to those in crisis work, e.g. Connecticut’s Risk Warrant law of 1999, show that for every 10-20 warrants issued, one life is saved.
- Nationally speaking, data collection and research on gun violence is relatively low (due to effective CDC research ban); key data sources are the National Violent Death Reporting System and National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.
- Burden of gun violence translates to 10 deaths per 100,000, now exceeding the rate for motor vehicle deaths.
- States with more guns have higher rates of homicide and suicide, states with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun violence.
- Research shows those with serious mental illness arrested for violent gun crime or completed suicide with a gun: 72% who completed suicide were not prohibited, 38% arrested for a violent crime were not prohibited.
|On a state level, much progress has been made on data collection:
|State legislators shared their perspectives
Opening remarks were delivered by Senator Patty Kuderer from the 48th Legislative District, who spoke to the historically immense challenges of a divided legislature on gun violence prevention policy.
Interestingly enough, Sen. Kuderer pointed out, with the inclusion of mental illness/mental health to these policies, there is more willingness to have a conversation and work together across the aisle. Senator Kuderer was the Prime Sponsor of Senate Bill 5441, which would prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing a firearm for six months following a 72-hour involuntary hold. It received a hearing in the Senate, which represents a major step forward, and though it didn’t progress, Senator Kuderer plans to bring the bill back next legislative session.
Two expert panel discussions held
Breakout sessions provided in-depth learning
Presenting the Extreme Risk Protection Orders use process is Eileen Norton, part of the ERPO implementation team. To her left (seated) is co-presenter and fellow implementation team member Anne Levinson, and to her right is Milena Stott, Chief of Inpatient Services at Valley Citites Behavioral Health.
During the second half of our day-long Summit, participants attended two of four breakout sessions offered:
- Community impact of mental health and gun violence intersection, the clinician’s perspective on secondary trauma. (Discussion)
- From Policy to Practice and Practice to Policy: use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders, the clinical and legal perspectives. (Presentation).
- “Safety Assessments” for individuals with mental health diagnoses including PTSD, substance use disorders, mood/anxiety or psychotic disorders in populations with a very high rate of gun ownership. (Discussion)
- Trauma-informed care: real risk factors for trauma and resulting interpersonal violence. (Presentation)
The second session on Extreme Risk Protection Orders took the audience through the complete process of filing a petition to the surrender of firearms. With a clinician co-leading the session, the presentation incorporated ERPOs as part of safety planning for at-risk individuals.
For ERPO implementation details and FAQs, please visit http://foundation.gunresponsibility.org/erpo-help/
Inquiries for presentations or additional background, please direct to Cathy Munsen, firstname.lastname@example.org