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President Trump said last week that the shooting that left 26 people dead at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas was "a mental health problem," not a gun problem. In doing so, he made mental health an issue whether mental illness was the underlying factor in the church shooting or not.

Why it matters: It's clear that Americans across party lines want some sort of change that will prevent the sickening frequency of mass shootings — there have been 388 in 2017 alone — that continue to shake our country. By suggesting that mental health should be focus of the debate, rather than gun control, Trump invited a closer look at his record — which includes budget cuts that have been criticized by mental health groups.

Trump's budget proposal cuts funding for mental health services:

  • The 2018 budget proposes a 23% reduction (from $541.5m to $415.5m) in the mental health services block grant.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute of Mental Health would also see about $625 million in combined cuts under the new budget.
  • What they're saying: The Trump administration's "proposed budget cuts for mental health research, prevention, and treatment are troubling," said Alison Malmon, executive director of Active Minds, a nonprofit organization focused on mental health awareness and education for students. Such cuts "can be just as debilitating, if not more so, than a physical condition."
  • What the administration says: The Department of Health and Human Services cited former HHS Secretary Tom Price's congressional testimony on the budget earlier this year, which promoted a proposal of $5 million in new funding authorized by the 21st Century Cures Act for "assertive community treatment." That kind of treatment is used for people with serious mental illnesses who live independently, but need intensive support.

Trump supported Medicaid cuts and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act:

  • Prior to the ACA, not all health insurance plans offered mental health coverage. It's now considered an “essential health benefit" that individual health plans must cover.
  • Repealing the ACA also would have pulled back on the expansion of Medicaid, which is the primary source of funding for mental health coverage.
  • What they're saying: "How does the administration do things like this, and then blame people for these tragic events or blame people for having a mental illness?" said Paul Gionfriddo, CEO of Mental Health America. "We've got to make the policy match the rhetoric here."
  • What the administration says: White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the administration has encouraged states to apply for waivers that would exempt them from a Medicaid rule limiting the size of residential treatment facilities that can get federal Medicaid funding. "This waiver frees up federal dollars to help more people diagnosed with mental health issues," said Gidley.

Trump made it easier for people with mental illnesses to purchase firearms:

  • In February, Trump quietly reversed an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental health issues to buy guns. The rule targeted people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to have control over their own financial affairs, and flagged them to the national background check database, per NBC.
  • Yes, but: Note that the regulation was controversial, and many mental health advocacy groups, including the National Council on Disability, Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities, and National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery submitted letters calling for the Obama regulation's reversal once it was issued. They argued it was an infringement on Second Amendment rights.
  • What they're saying: "Many advocacy groups, including us, pointed out ... that the rule would reenforce misconceptions and inaccurate stereotyping of people with mental disabilities as violent and dangerous," said Bethany Lilly, deputy director of policy and legal advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health. "Unfortunately, we were proven correct."

Go deeper: Mental health — Not just about mass shootings

Go deeper

Updated 30 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott says Trump "misspoke" when he told Proud Boys to "stand by"

Photo: Bonnie Cash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that he believes President Trump "misspoke" when he told the far-right "Proud Boys" group to "stand back and stand by" in response to a question about condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate.

Catch up quick: Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday, "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?" Trump asked who specifically he should condemn, and then responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."

Updated 38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Commission on Presidential Debates wants changes

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that it plans to implement changes to rules for the remaining debates, after Tuesday night's head-to-head between Joe Biden and Donald Trump was practically incoherent for most of the night.

What they are saying: "Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues," the CPD said in a statement.

Trump says he doesn't know who Proud Boys are after telling them to "stand by"

President Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he doesn't know who the Proud Boys are, after saying at the presidential debate last night that the far-right group should "stand back and stand by" in response to a question asking him to condemn white supremacists.

Why it matters: The comments set off outrage and calls for clarification from a number of Republican senators. After being asked several times on Wednesday whether he will condemn white supremacy, Trump responded, "I have always denounced any form — any form of any of that, you have to denounce. But I also — Joe Biden has to say something about antifa."

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