Lawmakers make bipartisan call to help the mentally ill

Lawmakers make bipartisan call to help the mentally ill

The co-founders of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus on Sunday called for Congress to begin hearings on the state of mental healthcare in the United States in the wake of last weekend's deadly shooting in Tucson.

"It's always something you don't talk about, you don't discuss because of the stigma. And I think we need to address that heavily," Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"It's one of those areas where I believe that we are not informing and educating the public enough to be able to help them make the decisions to help those that they love."

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), a former child psychologist, called for the Energy and Commerce Committee, of which he's a member, to hold hearings on the issue.

"I believe this issue has touched the hearts of so many members of Congress who are constantly stopping me and saying, is there something else we could have done? Is there something else we can do? And I believe so," he said.

"We don't know if things would have been different we could have prevented this tragedy. We do know that appropriate and timely mental health treatment has prevented tragedies and will prevent tragedies."

The lawmakers co-founded the bipartisan caucus in 2003. Their calls for legislative oversight comes as a new Quinnipiac poll found that, while 40 percent of respondents thought the shooting could not have been prevented, 23 percent blamed the mental health system.

The shooting left six people dead and injured 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Only 15 percent of respondents in the poll blamed political rhetoric and 9 percent said lax gun control was the cause.

Napolitano agreed that the mental health system was to blame. The suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, is widely believed to be schizophrenic.

"I think the ability for parents to get their children help, know where to turn to, know what the systems are" is one of the shortcomings highlighted by the shooting.

"There has not be enough cohesiveness to treat it as the disease that it is," she said. "We need to begin to impress upon both the state and federal governments the urgency of this, because every time there's a tragedy, there's a lot of hoopla for a month, two months … and then we're on to the next thing."

Other guests on the CNN show shared those feelings.

"This is a psychiatric failure. It's not a political failure. It's a failure of our ability to provide basic care for people who have brain diseases that are seriously mentally ill," said E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center.