President Obama's gun proposals: Mental health advocates react

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Pamela Gionfriddo is CEO of the Mental Health Association.  Her husband Paul once chaired a subcommittee on health in Connecticut.  The couple stopped everything Wednesday to watch and discuss President Barack Obama's speech on gun control.

"Violence and violent tendencies and mental illnesses are two distinct and different things," Paul said.

Peaking their interest was executive action number 17.  It states, "Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities."

Pamela said, "People with mental illness have rights too, and rights to adequate healthcare but also rights to privacy."

The Gionfriddos expressed concern that people with mental illness who need to speak freely with a health care professional might feel too exposed to speak up. 

Paul and Pamela are also parents who have a personal interest in the issue.

"Timothy developed his symptoms of schizophrenia at about five-years-old," Paul explained.

President Obama's plan suggests increased access to services and reaching 750,000 young people through outreach.  The couple says it's not enough. The pair wants screenings for every child at a young age.

"It would be so simple to do that and so inexpensive to do it," Paul said.

The Mental Health Association says its funding was cut by 8% in October of 2012.

"They need to start restoring the money to mental health and then adding new dollars to mental health as well," Paul said.

The couple says the system for seeking help should be easier for the public, and issues with mental illness could be prevented or diagnosed at an earlier age.

"None of us can navigate effectively, the system that we have built, to try to provide services here and it's about time we all recognized that.  And change it," Paul said.

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