WASHINGTON -- A congressional panel today will hear from mental health experts and parents of patients as the lawmakers consider how to provide better treatment and how to keep guns out of the hands of violent patients.
Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, began putting the panel together after a mentally ill gunman shot dead 20 children and six teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.
"My goal is that members will be well-informed from the first-person perspective of what it's like for families to deal with mental illness," said Mr. Murphy, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, host of today's hearing.
Many people with mental illnesses aren't being treated because they feel stigmatized, they don't have insurance, they don't realize they are ill or there aren't enough providers in the area, said Mr. Murphy, who worked as a child psychologist before his election to Congress.
"It isn't just a gun issue. It's [making] sure people are getting the proper treatment," he said.
Still, the hearing was spurred by the Newtown shooting, and its aim is to open a discussion about alternatives to strict gun-control measures advocated by many Democrats.
"The question has become: Do we want to move some guns out of the hands of all people or do we need to be looking at removing all guns out of the hands of some people -- criminals and the violently mentally ill?" Mr. Murphy said.
He pointed out that most people with mental illnesses are not violent. They are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators, he said, careful not to perpetuate stereotypes.
"I want to break down the barriers [to treatment] that stigmatize those with mental illness," he said. "Think about how many times people referred to the Newtown shooter as evil or a monster or depraved. None of those are appropriate. We would not use derogatory terms like that with any other illness."
Among those expected to testify today are leaders of the National Institute of Mental Health, the Child Mind Institute, the Treatment Advocacy Center, The Forensic Panel and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The hearing begins at 10:15 a.m. and is expected to be broadcast on C-SPAN.
Bureau chief Tracie Mauriello: email@example.com, 1-703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.