01/15/2015 06:10 pm ET Updated Mar 17, 2015

Plot Against John Boehner Points to Need for Mental Health Reform

According to newspaper reports, Michael Hoyt allegedly had a plan to poison Speaker Boehner. If true, it shows the importance of passing the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR-3717) proposed by Representative Tim Murphy (R. PA) when it is reintroduced in 2015. Hoyt is alleged to have had previous psychiatric hospitalizations and was off his medications. He believed he was Jesus and Boehner was responsible for the ebola outbreak.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act contains provisions to connect the most seriously ill to treatment including provisions that help states require some to stay in treatment as a condition of living in the community. If Hoyt was eligible, Murphy's bill might have kept him healthy and avoided the plotting. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act also contains provisions making it more likely states will treat people with serious mental illness when they have a "need for treatment." Under current law, many states wait until after individuals with mental illness become a "danger to self or others." Rather than prevent violence, their laws require it. Most importantly, the bill will force the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to do what it has not done voluntarily: focus on reducing homelessness, violence, arrest, and incarceration of persons with serious mental illness, all of which have become a national crisis and been ignored by SAMHSA.

This is not the first planned or actual attack on political leaders by persons with untreated serious mental illness
  • President Ronald Reagan was shot by mentally ill John Hinckley in an attempt to get a date with Jodie Foster
  • President James Garfield was killed by mentally ill Charles Guiteau
  • President Andrew Jackson was shot by mentally ill Richard Lawson
  • President Theodore Roosevelt was shot by a mentally ill man who said a ghost told him to shoot.
  • Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot by Jared Loughner who has been ordered to receive treatment for mental illness
  • Before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, he escaped a planned assassination by mentally ill Richard Pavlick
  • Russel Weston shot two security officers at the U.S. Capital Building and was found incompetent to stand trial
  • John Patrick Bedell who shot up the Pentagon had a history of mental illness that led his parents to warn authorities about him.
  • In 2014, numerous individuals with mental illness jumped the White House fence including Omar Gonzalez who made it inside

Congress usually addresses these events by providing themselves with better security. But what about the rest of us? Only by ensuring treatment for the most seriously ill can Congress help patients, keep everyone safer and save money. Representative Murphy's proposals do all three.