The Newtown School Shooting: A Call to Action

By Richard V. Aghababian, MD
MMS President

As we all try to sort out our thoughts and emotions over the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., I believe that it’s imperative that physicians and the Massachusetts Medical Society take action.

As always, we must focus on the safety of our patients, children and communities. But we need to do more than that; it’s time for us to speak out. As part of our action, I have asked that the MMS focus on three areas:

  • Gun control  – We need to emphasize that this is a public health issue, not just a matter of civil liberty
  • Mental health – What should we do to ensure that those who need care get it?
  • Education – How do we educate medical personnel to respond to such incidents?

On Wednesday, President Obama announced the formation of a task force on gun violence, led by Vice President Biden. The task force has been charged with developing proposals on gun control. At MMS, we will begin a review of our gun policies to see where the gaps are, and we will support reforms that will limit access to guns and ammunition that are so often used in mass shooting scenarios.

At the same time, advocates are pushing for meaningful changes in the mental health care system. Meaningful change means that society as a whole must give the same attention to mental illness as we do to physical illness.  We stand in strong support of mental health parity laws and comprehensive access to mental health services, including screening and prevention.

Our annual Public Health Leadership Forum this coming April, which will focus on mental health, will address some of the successes and failures in the mental health system and how to work together to address patients’ needs.

Further, do we need additional education programs to prepare responders who must deal with mass casualty situations perpetrated on innocent, unsuspecting victims?

As always, we will be communicating with our health care partners across the state as we move forward with an advocacy and education plan in order to best protect our patients and our communities.

I urge you to stay connected on this issue. If you have suggestions on directions we should pursue, please contact me at president@massmed.org with your ideas and comments.

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