Changes to mental health rules key component of gun law proposals

TRENTON – Among the many efforts Gov. Chris Christie unveiled Friday to address gun violence, the changes to mental health treatment – including easier involuntary commitment – could prove the most controversial.

Christie said the changes to the mental health treatment system are common-sense efforts to reduce bureaucracy and increase access to comprehensive care for those who need it.

“The unfortunate and harsh reality is we’re never going to be able to prevent all violent acts,” Christie said. “Horrible things will continue to happen. Some things are simply out of human control.”

But he said that an attempt to address the root causes of violence would involve addressing shortcomings in the mental health system.

“Every one of those instances of mass shootings involved people who were deeply disturbed and not receiving treatment,” he said. “We need to lower the stigma associated with treatment.”

Among those initiatives, Christie wants several things accomplished:

*Make it easier for health professionals and courts to require potentially dangerous people to receive the treatment, either inpatient or outpatient. 

* Create flexibility in the type of care an individual is receiving, making it easier for someone to move from inpatient to outpatient settings.

* Change the standard of involuntary outpatient treatment to eliminate the uncertainty expressed by clinicians and courts regarding their authority.

Christie also said such care should be government-funded so that those in need receive treatment regardless of ability to pay.

And then mental health records, he said, have to be included in background checks for firearms purchases.

Christie emphasized the state already has the nation’s second-toughest gun laws, but indicated more can be done to address the causes of violence.

Changes to mental health rules key component of gun law proposals