Rene Garcia on mental health & substance abuse: “Americans are hurting”

The day after a mass shooting in Texas, a Florida state senator promised on Monday to be “more vocal” about the state’s mental health and substance abuse needs.

Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee Chairman Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, said legislators need to focus on more than just a partisan debate over gun control.

“It’s far too easy for us to go to our corners and say we either need more gun control or less gun controls. But the reality is Americans are hurting,’’ Garcia said.  “And if we look at the common denominator for most of these shootings, it’s always lack of a mental health diagnosis or someone who did not receive mental health treatment. We can no longer move on in society until we start addressing this fundamental issue and stop ignoring it.”

Garcia’s committee oversees the agencies responsible for providing mental health and substance abuse services in the state.

Speaking to an audience of lobbyists and interested parties, Garcia asked them to bring him recommendations and suggestions on improvements that can be made.  But he warned them against asking the Legislature simply for more money, saying the Senate “gets it” that there is additional need for residential treatment beds.

Now is the time “to figure out what the next step  is,” Garcia said.

“Whether it’s dealing with  managed care companies, more mandates or less mandates, making sure that we stop over-prescribing medications to our citizens, whatever the case may be. I just don’t want it to be all about the money situation,” he said.

Armed with an assault-style rifle and a handgun, 26-year-old-Devin Patrick Kelley on Sunday opened fired inside the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 churchgoers and injuring 20 others. Police said the shooting was related to a domestic dispute and that it wasn’t motivated by race or religion.

By Christine Sexton.