School Shooting Sparks Mental Health Debate

February 16, 2018

In the wake of a deadly school shooting in Florida this week, President Trump vowed to put more resources towards mental health research.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

Trump Vows to Tackle Mental Health in Wake of Shooting


Following a deadly school shooting in Florida on Tuesday, President Trump vowed to address mental health while calling the gunman "mentally disturbed" on Twitter.


The president spoke on Thursday from the White House, addressing the shooting in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead, saying he would work "to tackle different issues of mental health." Trump also emphasized the need for Americans to report behavior of the "mentally disturbed" to the authorities. Trump's remarks come just days after the president signed a two-year funding bill, which includes $13 billion in mental health and opioid funding, according to NBC News.


But opponents say the same budget bill proposed massive cuts to Medicaid, which would devastate the nation's mental healthcare system, according to experts. "Medicaid pays for about a quarter of mental health and substance abuse treatment in this country," said Rebecca Farley David, vice president for policy and advocacy at the National Council for Behavioral Health, an organization that delivers mental health and addiction services to millions of Americans, to NBC News.

Last February, Trump rolled back a controversial Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.

HHS Secretary Supports Gun Violence Research


On Thursday, HHS secretary Alex Azar announced he supports expanding federal gun violence research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC's ability to study gun violence has been limited by a 1996 amendment that prevented the agency from collecting data to advocate for gun control. But Azar believes the amendment should not stop the CDC from conducting research, according to Politico.


"We believe we've got a very important mission with our work with serious mental illness as well as our ability to do research on the causes of violence and the causes behind tragedies like this," Azar said, referencing Tuesday's shooting at a Florida school.


The AMA released a press release in support of Azar's comments. "As in any urgent public health threat, we cannot devise effective solutions until we have a deeper understanding of the underlying causes that prompt gun violence. With more than 30,000 Americans dying each year from gun violence and firearm-related accidents, the time to act is now," stated AMA president David O. Barbe, MD.

Health Care Prices to Outpace Inflation


U.S. health care prices are projected to outpace the economy's inflation for the first time since 2010, according to a new report released Wednesday by CMS. This year, the price of personal health expenditures are projected to rise 2.2 percent, compared to a 1.9 percent increase of overall inflation.


Furthermore, the report points out that in recent years, overall price hikes in health care have been low, increasing by an average of 1.1 percent from 2014 to 2016. For those years, increases in health spending have been driven by volume, as millions more people gained insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


Those trends are projected to reverse and the number of people without health insurance is projected to grow after Republicans lifted the ACA's penalty for going uninsured last year. 

Quote of the Week

8 EHR Improvements That Need to Be Made


"My grand vision is to use not only machine learning, but also voice recognition. If I'm at home, I can say 'Hey Alexa, order hand cream' and it's on my doorstep the next day. We should have that in our [EHR's]. I shouldn’t have to touch the keyboard and search for things."
- Lisa M. Masson, MD at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles Calif. on how to improve EHRs.