Reps. to HHS: What of 2007 mental health recommendations?

Some of the measures proposed by President Obama following December’s Newtown massacre bear a striking resemblance to recommendations made after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting spree, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers said Thursday.

The group of six members of the Energy and Commerce Committee wants to know what became of the George W. Bush-era proposals to better identify and treat people with mental health problems.

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“Despite evidence that prevention and treatment services can be effective, fewer than 40 percent of Americans experiencing mental illness receive treatment in a given year,” the group wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Following Seung-Hui Cho’s rampage at Virginia Tech, which left 32 people dead, Bush directed HHS and the Justice Department to issue recommendations for steps the federal government could take to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

“Some of the recommendations made in the Report following Virginia Tech appear to be similar to proposals that were presented by the President on January 16, 2013, after the Newtown tragedy, to address concerns about access to mental health treatment,” the lawmakers wrote.

They submitted a list of 11 2007 recommendations that dealt with mental health issues and asked Sebelius to provide status updates on each by Feb. 21.

“In order to determine what actions were taken after previous tragedies, and whether those actions were effective, the committee seeks information on the status of HHS’s efforts to implement the recommendations made in the 2007 Report following the Virginia Tech shootings," the lawmakers wrote.

The letter is signed by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), its ranking Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas).