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After school shooting, Conn. debates mental health

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm •  Published: January 29, 2013

"My Ana Grace was murdered. She was six years old. She was one of 26 innocent people massacred senselessly," Marquez-Greene wrote. "This tragedy could have been prevented."

Lawmakers were urged to look at numerous issues such as stronger civil commitment laws, mandatory mental health evaluations for gun purchasers, more funding for school-based health centers that provide mental health care and community-based mental health services, and allowing families to put a troubled relative on a list preventing them from obtaining a gun. At the same time, some people diagnosed with mental illness told the legislators not to take out their anger with Lanza against them.

Slightly more than 100 people signed up to testify on Tuesday, compared to 1,200 who signed up to testify at Monday's hearing on gun laws.

Jennifer Maksel, a Newtown mother of three whose youngest son is a first grader at Sandy Hook, told the panel about how she worries for her mentally troubled 12-year-old son, who she said can be abusive toward her and his brothers. Maksel said she's been trying for years to get him services, but the shooting brought his problems to the forefront and prompted an emergency meeting with school officials.

"It took something like this. Because I don't want another tragedy. Would I think he would do it? I don't think so. But who knows? He's 12 years old," she said. "But if I don't get him social skills to prepare himself for when he's 18, what am I going to do?"

State lawmakers were told that individuals with private insurance have much more limited access to services than people using government insurance. Patricia Rehmer, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said there are limits on the number of services that can be used annually, which can create problems for families.

"I am often called, especially by parents of young adults who are now keeping their children — young adults — on their insurance until they're 26, who need the services that we provide," Rehmer said of her agency, which serves only people without private insurance.

"They need case management. They need supportive housing. They need interactions with their peers," she said. "Those are things that private insurance companies do not pay for."