We are all aware of the senseless rampage which occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, which ended with 26 people, among them, 20 children, dead. There are those who say that people, and not guns, kill. With Project AWARE, the White House attempts to provide solutions for both – the guns and the people. The White House has set forth its plans to reduce gun violence by possibly reauthorizing the assault weapons ban, instituting new gun safety measures, and providing more access and education regarding mental health issues and treatment.
In a recent “Fireside Hangout,” Vice President Biden highlighted Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), a part of the Obama administration’s comprehensive plan to protect schools and communities from gun violence. In addition to first-aid training, Project AWARE proposes providing $40 million “to help school districts work with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and other local organizations to assure students with mental health issues or other behavioral issues are referred to the services they need”; $25 million “for innovative state-based strategies supporting young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues”; and $50 million in stipends and tuition reimbursement to train more than 5,000 additional mental health workers who help young people.
Vice President Biden explained that the idea behind Project AWARE is to take “preventative” measures in order to keep students and people safe, rather than acquiescing to the NRA’s proposal to place armed guards in schools for protection.
In addition to these new services, President Obama has pledged to enforce the provisions of Obamacare requiring insurers to provide mental health coverage that is equal to the coverage that beneficiaries would receive for other conditions. The President has pledged to issue regulations shortly, and he has also promised to issue a letter to state Medicaid agencies clarifying that they should already be providing equal access to mental health services through their Medicaid plans.
Although the government cannot put an end to mental illness, it can take strides to minimize its impact, both on individuals and society as a whole. By proposing Project AWARE, it is taking one such stride.
To read the White House’s entire gun violence plan, including the mental health provisions, click here.