In the course of the contentious debate leading up to the state’s enactment of tough new gun laws earlier this year, gun advocates argued that gun violence is a mental health problem, not a gun control problem. State lawmakers, with the support and encouragement of Governor Dannel P. Malloy, concluded that it wasn’t really an either/or proposition and passed legislation that called for both gun control and mental health initiatives. On Monday, the legislature’s Committee on Children addressed the second half of that equation and announced a proposal aimed at making it easier for families to secure mental health services for children.
If it is true, as writer, historian, and philosopher Will Durant once observed, that education is the transmission of civilization, we should brace ourselves for a period of lurching and grinding gears. It is troubling enough that the Newtown school district is once again having problems winning local support for its annual budget. (This week’s referendum underlined a recurring suspicion in town that at least some of Newtown’s investment in education is a waste of money.) But then there is Hartford, where the legislature’s Appropriations Committee gnawed through the financial underpinnings of its own educational reform initiative, which one year ago this week inspired legislative leaders, education officials, and the governor to bask in a glow of pride, bipartisanship, and self-congratulation as they heralded “a new beginning” for educational excellence in Connecticut’s schools.
Newtown’s collective consideration of what to do about providing the next permanent elementary school for the children of Sandy Hook over the 21 weeks since 12/14 has, in the context of the normal glacial pace of community planning, seemed like a sprint. A series of constituent meetings with victims’ families, survivors’ families, school faculty and staff, and residents produced a list of 10 guiding principles for creating a new school environment for the children of Sandy Hook. Each of the guidelines aligned with three basic themes: make it safe, make it smart, and make it compassionate. The exigencies of state funding for such a project, however, added one other theme: make it snappy.
It is not uncommon for people working in a newspaper office to hear themselves described by others as having their fingers on the pulse of the town. But from where we sit, the business of community assessment and diagnosis is not as simple as that. Newtown’s lifeblood flows from myriad hearts beating, at times, in cacophonous syncopation. And rarely is it more difficult to discern what the heart of the town is telling us than in the wake of a failed budget referendum.
If 2013 runs true to form, another 2,000-plus Connecticut residents will be diagnosed with Lyme disease, adding their names to tens of thousands of other state residents who have contracted the disease over the past decade.
And Lyme disease is but one offering on the expanding menu of tickborne maladies afflicting the local population. Babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever were joined just last week by a new tickborne disease so novel that the Yale researchers who discovered it in southern Connecticut have yet to give it a common name. So, with the advent of another tick season, public health officials are gearing up to meet the threat head-on.
Newtown has been the object of countless acts of generosity since 12/14. Whether through sympathy or a sense of kinship — that we’re all in this difficult and dangerous world together — perfect strangers have declared themselves citizens of the emotional territory of Newtown and have done their part to support through donations, both cash and in-kind, Newtown’s future recovery. Next Tuesday, Newtown’s actual citizens will have to declare themselves on the matter of the town’s future by voting on a budget. As we know, the sum of a town is not simply what one finds on the bottom line of a ledger, but in the accounts of expenses and revenues for 2013-2014 there is much that defines the town’s inclination toward its own future.
Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. People kill people quite rapidly with certain well-appointed guns. In realizing this, Connecticut’s legislature turned its back on the NRA hard line that there should be no limits on the efficient lethality machined into a gun, because guns are benign just sitting there in the gun case. Of course, they are also designed with stocks, grips, recoil reduction and other innovations to make them easy to pick up and use, sometimes by the wrong people. So now that the Connecticut gun debate appears to have boarded Air Force One with President Obama on Monday and flown off to Washington, the discussion in the state needs to bring equal fervor and discernment to our system for delivering mental health services. While it is incorrect to assume gun violence has nothing to do with guns, it is equally flawed to assume that placing restrictions on certain guns solves the problem.
Doing nothing was never an option. But in the wake of the December 14 massacre of children and educators at the Sandy Hook School, the question quickly arose: What kind of something would Connecticut’s lawmakers do in response to the tragedy? This week, the state’s legislative leaders answered that question with a bipartisan bill that the Democratic Senate President Pro Tem, Donald E. Williams, Jr, called the “strongest and most comprehensive gun bill in the United States.” While that may be remarkable in and of itself, the thing that showed that 12/14 profoundly changed the political calculus in Hartford — at least on this issue — was that Republican Senate Minority Leader John McKinney stood with his Democratic colleagues to announce that roughly half of the GOP’s Senate caucus would also support the measure. He was proud, he said, that so many legislators understood that “some issues, and this one in particular, should rise above politics.”
Despite the sincere and sustained attempts by the people of Newtown to have serious discussions about the many issues that have come eddying into the public realm from the deeply personal grief and shock of the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook School, the continuing co...
Mental health professionals know that traumatic events occupy our minds, quite literally, in ways that can derail lives and stress families at their foundations. And when the trauma is as horrible and incomprehensible as the 12/14 shootings at the Sandy Hook School, the long-term impact on individuals, families, and even the community can be particularly acute. While Adam Lanza’s soul-searing crime has focused legislators and the political class on the issue of mental health interventions for emerging sociopaths, it is useful to remember that there are mental health problems that exist both as antecedents and consequences of violent crime. On either side of the equation, when these problems are downplayed or ignored altogether, we risk launching a legacy of dysfunction down the generations, where antecedents beget consequences and vice versa.