There are 94 recommendations in the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission’s final 277-page report on the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting that claimed the lives of 20 students and six educators.
Drafted by the 16-member commission over more than two years, the recommendations focused on gun safety, school security, and mental health.
The final meeting of the commission and the release of the document didn’t mark the end of the journey for the group of volunteers who are eager to see their recommendations implemented by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature. The group agreed to get together in a year and see how much progress had been made on its report.
But the “elephant in the room” Friday was the price tag for implementing all or even some of the recommendations. Fifty-two of the recommendations were related to mental health, 30 were related to gun safety, and 12 addressed school security.
Wayne Sandford, a professor at the University of New Haven, Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice & Forensic Sciences and a member of the commission, said “the elephant in the room is the cost of this document.”
Hundreds of people at the Legislative Office Building Friday night testified against cuts to the mental health system that were included in Malloy’s two-year budget.
“There’s no doubt that this document includes many, many items that cost money,” Sandford told Malloy Friday during their last meeting. “I don’t think it could come at a worse time given the current situation.”
Malloy said he included an additional $13 million in the 2016 budget to expand caseloads at the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, but advocates were quick to point out a $25 million cut to last year’s budget that was carried forward to Malloy’s two-year budget. It’s a cut that could essentially “gut the adult mental health and addiction treatment system in the state of Connecticut,” Heather Gates, CEO of Community Health Resources, said.
She said the patients her organization will no longer be able to serve will end up in emergency rooms or jails and the state won’t save money.
“A large portion of people in our jails suffer mental health issues,” Gates said. “What is going to happen when they get out and need treatment?”
At a press conference following the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, Malloy said some of the recommendations in the report have already been implemented.
“We’ve already made $43 million in school safety grants. … We’ve already impacted 1,000 schools,” he said.
Malloy said they would continue to work on the mental health side of the report.
“The unfortunate set of circumstances is that we can’t do everything at once,” Malloy said. “But I can tell you when the budget was being put together these recommendations and what we knew about them were very much in our mind.”
He said they are doing as much as they possibly can in an “environment where revenue doesn’t grow as rapidly as people would like it to.”
He said “it’s a work in progress.”
There are 52 recommendations regarding mental health. One of the recommendations says “a fully functional mental health system will require better coordination and access to a broad range of necessary services across payment systems.” It also recommends increasing reimbursement rates for behavioral health and increasing the behavioral health workforce.
“This should not be viewed as finished,” Malloy said. “This has got to be an ongoing process.”
As far as more gun legislation is concerned, Malloy said he doesn’t believe there’s an appetite to open the debate on gun control. In 2013, the legislature and Malloy banned certain assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Malloy said the legislature is unlikely to pass a recommendation to require every shell casing to include a serial number.
But “I think there are things that can be done,” Malloy said.
He said he’s a proponent of a recommendation that would require a gun lock be sold with every gun purchase.