“To produce policies that really address the problem — that is really the fundamental challenge,” said Chris Jennings, a former domestic policy adviser to Clinton whose expertise is health care. “This is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted response, and the administration has to capture and maintain the attention of the public and policymakers for extended periods of time.”
Jennings, now president of Jennings Policy Strategies and a co-director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Project, told RCP he was heartened to see a range of Americans jumping in to discuss the issues presented by the Newtown killings. Their backgrounds and perspectives go “beyond the traditional people who’ve been engaged,” he said.
Enlarging the public policy debate to include mental health is essential, he added, and those challenges “are immense.” They include identifying mental health conditions with known connections to violence; overcoming societal stigmas about getting help; increasing access to effective treatment; maintenance of populations with diagnosed conditions; social services; housing; education and training; employment; and the rights of families and their offspring when troubled children become adults.
“Just addressing guns won’t address the problem,” Jennings said.