By Associated Press Staff
Amid the outcry over the Florida school shootings, the Trump administration says it is “actively exploring” ways to help states expand inpatient mental health treatment using Medicaid funds.
President Donald Trump again brought up the issue of mental hospitals in a meeting with governors this week, invoking a time when states maintained facilities for mentally ill and developmentally disabled people.
“In the old days, you would put him into a mental institution,” Trump said, apparently referring to alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz, whose troubling behavior prompted people close to him to plead for help from authorities, without success. “We have nothing between a prison and leaving him at his house, which we can’t do anymore.”
Organizations representing state officials and people with mental illness say no one wants to go back to warehousing patients. But they also say that federal action is needed to reverse a decades-old law known as the “IMD exclusion,” which bars Medicaid from paying for treatment in mental health facilities with more than 16 beds. IMD stands for “institution for mental diseases.”
Last year, the Trump administration opened the way for states to seek waivers from the policy in cases involving treatment for substance abuse. A spokesman said states are pressing the administration for similar waivers for mental health care, and officials are looking for ways to address those requests.
“We’ve continued to receive … proposals and strong interest from states to allow similar demonstrations for individuals with serious mental illness,” Johnathan Monroe, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement. “We are actively exploring how best to provide states with new opportunities to improve their mental health delivery systems.”
Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Vermont have waiver requests pending.
There’s no telling if a more robust mental health care system would have saved the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Florida, as well as other victims of mass shootings that have become tragically commonplace. Democrats say it’s no substitute for stronger gun control laws.