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Vicki Polin
Social Justice Activist

What’s the solution to mass shootings?

Over the last few years there has been an increase of mass shootings in the United States. The debates go on and on about what we need to do to stop this type of insanity.

I don’t believe the answer is creating an environment that our children go to school in what feels like a prison.  I also don’t believe that better gun control laws will stop the violence either.

What we need to do is examine the fact that many Americans are experiencing a mental health crisis, which has been exasperated by the pandemic.

Back in the 1970s many high schools had open campus, which meant students could come as go as they pleased, as long as they attended scheduled classes.  If students got caught cutting classes, their parents would be notified and the students would get detention.

I can’t help but thinking back to when I was in school.  There was never any security at my elementary or high schools.  I don’t believe we really needed it.  So what changed?

The answer is simple, years ago our schools and communities had the funding needed to make sure the mental health needs of students and other community members were taken care of.  Communities did their best to make sure programs were available to those in need.

Sadly, when Ronald Reagan became President, he and the Republican Congress started cutting funding related to mental health programs.  Sadly these legislators believed that funding mental health was frivolous.  

I clearly remember mental health program funding being cut, because at the time I was working at an award winning residential group home for intellectually challenged adults.  It felt like overnight the agency, along with so many other mental health programs lost just about half of their budgets, leaving agencies scrambling to keep their doors open.  Many programs had no other option but to lay off almost half of their staff, leaving several clients with no place to go for help.

Around the time that Congress was slashing mental health funding, insurance companies, along with both Medicaid and Medicare started slashing their mental health benefits.  

Insurance companies were limiting the number of therapy sessions a person with mental health issues could have per year.  An analogy for this would be like health insurance companies limiting the number of chemotherapy treatments someone with cancer could have.

When the budget cuts were made and insurance companies were slashing benefits, mental health provider scrambled trying to help their clients.  The only option was for providers to only use diagnosis that would provide clients with the most number of sessions — before their treatment would be cut off by a insurance companies.  

Most people can’t afford to pay for mental health treatment out of pocket, even when a therapist would slide their scale.  Needless to say many folks who needed help couldn’t get it.

It’s also important to mention that around the same time mental health programs lost their federal funding, the funding for police to partner with community mental health agencies to assist them with residents experiencing mental health crisis was cut.  

As a nation we need to do something immediately to stop the next mass murder, yet the answer is not making schools into prisons or by gun control.  Folks will always be able to find some sort of weapon (other then guns) if their minds are set on killing others.

I’m positive if we reinstate federal and state mental health funding in the long run things will get better.  

About the Author
Vicki Polin is a feminist who has been a Social Justice Activist since her childhood. Vicki is also an award winning, retired psychotherapist who worked in the anti-rape field for just under forty years. For fun Vicki is an artist and nature photographer.
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