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Lawmaker Urges More Mental Health Funding After Sandy Hook Massacre

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CHICAGO (CBS) – An Illinois state lawmaker said Wednesday that talking about gun control isn’t the only conversation we need to have after the shooting massacre at a grade school in Connecticut.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) said, despite existing strains on the state budget, Illinois must expand services for the mentally ill.

Lang has been a crusader for greater mental health resources. He said in virtually every mass shooting in America – like the one in Newtown, Conn., last week, and the one at Northern Illinois University in 2008 – the gunman was deranged.

While Lang acknowledged gun laws are part of the conversation to preventing such shootings in the future, he said “we also need to take a hard look at the people who use guns; and I’m not talking about the law-abiding citizen, I’m talking about those who have issues who should not have guns, those who have issues that need services they’re not getting. We need to do, clearly, a better job with that.”

Collette Lueck, managing director of the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership, also said better gun control is only one part of the solution to mass shootings. She said Illinois and the nation must do a better job of caring for the mentally ill.

“I don’t think America has to live tolerating mass shootings. The solutions aren’t easy,” Lueck said. “There’s very little funding for prevention, early intervention, screening – things that get kids help at earlier ages, and earlier stages of need.”

The state’s mental health crisis hotline for children last year logged an average of 115 calls a day, with at least 10,000 children admitted to a psychiatric hospital on the day they were evaluated.

Lang said there’s no pending legislation in the General Assembly right now dealing with mental health services, but he said the state must expand its programs for the mentally ill.

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