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Local Doctor Weighs in On Mental Health Proposals

DR ANFANGSPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) —  Governor Patrick and President Obama took action Wednesday to try and strengthen gun laws and reduce gun violence and they say part of that involves access to mental health services.

With mental health backgrounds possibly linked to deadly shootings like the one in Aurora, Colorado and at Virinia Tech., the president says it’s a key point in preventing future tragedies.

“We will make sure mental health professionals know their options in reporting threats of violence even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator,” President Obama said Wednesday.

Stuart Anfang is the medical director of adult outpatient psychiatry with Baystate Medical Center.  He believes increasing access to mental health care and training others, like teachers, to recognize signs of mental illness could be beneficial.

“Putting more resources into identifying difficulties and then getting  them into appropriate treatment and evaluation is probably a good idea,” said Anfang.  “Certainly it’s a period of vulnerability where young adults frankly probably don’t get enough attention about their mental health needs.”

The president says doctors and other health care providers need to talk with their patients about gun safety and that doing so is not against the Affordable Health Care Act.

Dr. Anfang says it’s not against the patient’s rights either.  In Massachusetts, Dr. Anfang says it’s good practice, as is the so-called “duty to protect” where a doctor must notify authorities if he or she thinks a patient could be a harm to himself or others.  He says unfortunately, though, it doesn’t happen everywhere.

“I’m aware that there are some states, not in Massachusetts or necessarily in the Northeast, but there are some states that have questioned the ability to ask about that and this kind of clarity will be a good thing,” said Dr. Anfang.

While Dr. Anfang agrees with the proposals of both the president and Governor Patrick, he says increasing mental health services must be done the correct way, with resources being added, rather than borrowed from other areas.


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