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April 03, 2024 11:18 AM UTC

Once Again, Republicans Only Support Mental Health In Theory

  • by: Colorado Pols

Republican legislators demonstrated for the gazillionth time on Tuesday that they are only interested in “mental health” as an argument against doing anything about gun violence prevention.

We’ve seen it time and time again: Republicans say that the real problem with gun violence is mental health and that any attempts to discuss legislation about the guns and bullets that kill people are missing the point. When Democrats eventually bring up legislation to deal with mental health issues…Republicans come up with all sorts of ridiculous reasons to oppose that, too.

Republican Rep. Ryan Armagost may or may not be wearing assault rifle underwear, too.

For example, here’s what Republican Rep. Ryan Armagost said on March 19 in speaking out against legislation seeking to ban assault weapons in Colorado:

Mental illness needs to be addressed. If we spent, like I say, every time one of these bills comes up, if we spent half the effort from these bills on mental mental health and mental illness, we would actually do something to prevent things like [mass shootings] that we’re trying to address in this bill. Mental illness needs to be addressed, not the tools that mentally ill people use to harm others.

This leads us to Senate Bill 24-001 (Continue Youth Mental Health Services Program), which passed out of the State Senate in mid-March despite six Republican “NO” votes — including from Senate Minority Leader Paul Lundeen. The legislation was brought up for discussion on Tuesday in the House Health and Human Services Committee (HHS); despite some ridiculous Republican opposition (more on that in a moment), SB24-001 made it out of HHS and is on its way to the Appropriations Committee. All four Republicans in the committee — Reps. Mary Bradfield, Brandi Bradley, Richard Holtorf, and Ron Weinbergvoted “NO” on the legislation.

And what would SB24-001 actually do? It would continue to fund a youth mental health program THAT HAS BEEN PROVEN TO BE EFFECTIVE ALREADY. From a press release via House Democrats:

The popular I Matter connects youth with a licensed mental health therapist for up to six free virtual counseling sessions, but the program is currently set to repeal on June 30th, 2024. SB24-001 makes that program permanent, ensuring Colorado students can continue receiving quality mental health care at no cost to them or their families.

The I Matter program was established in the 2021 legislative session and expanded by HB22-1243. The legislature also passed a law in 2023 allowing school districts to offer mental health screenings in schools to support student’s access to mental health care. I Matter has served over 11,000 Colorado youth since 2021 and provided over 50,000 sessions. According to the Colorado 2023 Kids Count report, youth suicide in 2023 decreased 30 percent from the year before. [Pols emphasis]

This bears repeating: The “I Matter” program demonstrably contributed to reducing youth suicide by 30% in 2023. Voting “NO” on SB24-001 means that you are voting to eliminate this program.

Via “Kids Count in Colorado” report

Now, we also know that firearms are the leading cause of death among young people in the United States, as the Colorado 2023 Kids Count report explains:

In 2020, firearms surpassed motor vehicle crashes to become the leading cause of death for American children ages 1 to 19 for the first time on record. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of gun deaths among American children increased by 50%, bringing the number of U.S. kids and teens killed by guns in 2021 to its highest level since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began publishing mortality data for children under 19 in 1999. These staggering statistics point to an urgent need for policy change to prevent children from accessing guns without adult supervision and to bolster gun safety laws that protect children from firearms in their homes, schools and communities.

In 2021, 83 Colorado kids and teens ages 19 and under were killed by guns—the highest number on record in at least 20 years and more than double the number of kids killed by guns in 2000. This increase in gun deaths drove Colorado’s firearm death rate among kids and teens up from 3.1 per 100,000 youth in 2000 to 6 per 100,000 youth in 2021. [Pols emphasis]

This is all pretty straightforward. Let’s recap:

  1. Republicans regularly oppose gun violence prevention legislation by saying that we should instead focus on mental health issues;
  2. Guns are the leading cause of death for young people in Colorado;
  3. When presented with legislation that deals with mental health issues and prevents gun deaths, Republicans still vote “NO.”

We know what you’re asking at this point: What is the Republican rationale for not supporting SB24-001? Here’s your answer, straight from the horse’s mouth (in this case, the “horse” is Rep. Brandi Bradley):

Rep. Brandi Bradley (R-Littleton)

Bradley is crazier than a bag of squirrels and has been working hard all session to prove that she is the #1 lunatic in the House Republican caucus. This is a pretty strong argument to make from that perspective:

“Schools want to tell you that they are providing mental health for your children behind your backs, to help them, when, in all actuality, they are trying to transgender your children.”

That is a hell of a lot of commas.

We’re also pretty sure that “transgender” is not a verb (nor is “transing” even a word).

Social media and the right-wing echo chamber have so thoroughly melted the brains of many Republicans that they believe everything is a secret effort to turn kids into a different sex (or even a different species). They are using that rationale here to oppose a common sense, successful mental health intervention program that — by their own words — is exactly the kind of thing that we should be talking about instead of gun violence prevention.

But the point here isn’t to prove that Colorado Republicans are bananas. The point is that GOP lawmakers should absolutely be ignored every time they say that the “real problem” with gun violence is mental health. These folks have proven, year after year, that they don’t actually want to do anything about either issue.

As is the case on so many issues nowadays, the adults in the room just need to move ahead without Republicans who are not serious about solving any of our actual problems.


3 thoughts on “Once Again, Republicans Only Support Mental Health In Theory

  1. So as long as kids who are unsure how to deal with gender can get mental health care, Republicans are against it? Got it. Cool. Good job.

    Do they not remember going through puberty? Not even the straightest, conform-iest people were comfortable with things during puberty! Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

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