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Mental health on the forefront following DC shooting incident

Mental health on forefront following Thursday

WASHINGTON, D.C. (10/04/2013) - Two high-profile crimes in our nation's capital, just weeks apart, are once again opening up the discussion of mental health in our country.

Two weeks ago, Aaron Alexis went on a shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, killing twelve people.

Yesterday, Miriam Carey was shot and killed by police after she led them on a car chase from the White House to the Capitol Building. Carey used her car as a weapon, striking a secret service officer before she was taken down.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said the Navy Yard shooter believed he was being controlled by electromagnetic waves. Today, CNN reported investigators found two medications in Carey's apartment, one used to treat schizophrenia, and the other an anti-depressant.

To combat these mental health-related crimes, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working on legislation that would strengthen community mental health services.

"We have so many gaps in the system right now," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Stabenow is the sponsor of the Excellence in Mental Health Act. It would improve quality standards at mental health centers, helping to expand access for people with mental illness.

"If we had our bipartisan bill in place, there would be a 24-hour psychiatric emergency facility where the police could take someone who needed help, or the family could go, or the individual themselves," she said." And there would be people who know what to do and would be able to begin to treat that person."

Washington Correspondent Ted Fioraliso spoke with Stabenow earlier this week. She said the majority of people who have a mental illness are not dangerous, and are more likely to be the victim of a crime rather than the perpetrator.

"The truth of the matter is, when something happens like this, too often you can look back and see the connection that they didn't get the help that they needed," Stabenow said.

Right now, the Excellence in Mental Health bill is still in committee. Stabenow said she's working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives and the Senate. One possibility is to include it in a bigger health bill before the end of the year.

"I don't care how we do it," she said. "Families, individuals, law enforcement, potential victims of crime are waiting for us to get this done."

Stabenow also authored an amendment in the Affordable Care Act that ensures mental health is treated the same way as physical health.