Committee Seeks Information on HHS’ Past Efforts to Respond to Incidences of Mass Violence

February 7, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Bipartisan Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today sought information on steps taken by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to assess and improve upon our nation’s mental health system following previous incidences of mass violence. Following the tragedy in Newtown, the committee announced Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) would spearhead an examination into a range of programs, including the federal government’s role in mental health research and care. The request is part of the panel’s ongoing efforts to gain a better understanding of societal factors contributing to and potential causes of outbreaks of violence.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the members wrote, “After past tragedies, federal, state, and local entities have reviewed what steps should be taken to prevent future tragedies from occurring… A helpful starting point for the committee’s inquiry is to examine the current and past efforts by federal agencies, in particular those of HHS, to assess and improve upon our mental health system in reaction to previous tragedies.”

After the Virginia Tech attacks in 2007, President George W. Bush directed the Secretaries of HHS and Education and the Attorney General to meet with a wide range of state and local leaders and experts on the broader issues raised by the tragedy, and to report back on what they learned, together with recommendations for how the federal government can help avoid such tragedies in the future.

The letter continued, “Some of the recommendations made in the Report following Virginia Tech appear to be similar to proposals that were presented by the President on January 16, 2013, after the Newtown tragedy, to address concerns about access to mental health treatment. These include efforts to improve early detection and treatment for behavioral health and violence issues among young people, support for effective mental health public education campaigns, provider training, and encouragement of innovative approaches in mental health services, all to improve school and community preparedness.

“In order to determine what actions were taken after previous tragedies, and whether those actions were effective, the committee seeks information on the status of HHS’s efforts to implement the recommendations made in the 2007 Report following the Virginia Tech shootings.”

The members requested HHS provide an update on the findings and recommendations relating to HHS by February 21, 2013.

Read the letter online HERE.

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