In the wake of the Newtown school tragedy, there was focus on two responses — gun control and improving mental health care.
The U.S. Senate refused to expand the use of background checks and balked at restricting the sale of guns with high-capacity ammo magazines. The idea behind that sensible measure was to make the shooter more vulnerable to police intervention when reloading.
The gun control efforts were a flop, but now the White House has put a focus on mental health, including a conference last week at which President Barack Obama announced a series of mental health initiatives.
"We want to let people living with mental health challenges know that they are not alone, and we've got to be making sure that we're committed to support those fellow Americans, because struggling with a mental illness or caring for someone who does can be isolating," Obama said Monday in addressing the conference.
Obama spoke of expanding mental health care, noting that less than 40 percent of Americans with mental illness receive treatment. "Now think about it: We wouldn't accept it if only 40 percent of Americans with cancers got treatment," he said.
Beginning next year, the Affordable Care Act will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage because of a pre-existing mental health condition. That's a start.
That law also expands mental health and substance abuse coverage for an estimated 62 million Americans.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also has hired 1,600 new mental health providers since last August, among a series of VA initiatives. The VA also is directing 151 health care centers nationwide to conduct mental health summits to identify community-based resources for veterans and their families.
These are mental health care reforms that can and must happen.
Few Americans with mental illness will turn violent. But we have seen a string of attacks where mental illness was an issue.
Gun control failed, but expanding mental health care must not.
Failing to act now would be to ignore yet again the lessons that should have been learned from Newtown.