Access Living Statement in Response to Executive Action to Reduce Gun Violence

CHICAGO – Like hundreds of nonprofits in the City of Chicago, Access Living’s staff and community have been deeply affected by the high rate of gun violence in our society. While we applaud President Obama’s personal incentive to reduce gun violence and the Federal investment of $500 million in mental health services, we believe that parts of his executive actions violate the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities.

Specifically, Access Living is alarmed about the Administration’s plan to use the Social Security Representative Payee database to identify individuals with psychiatric disabilities and place them in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This action could unfairly target a group of people who already face stigma and discrimination in many areas of their lives.

We are deeply concerned that these components of the executive action will discourage people with psychiatric disabilities from seeking care or assistance out of a fear of being added to the NICS or having their privacy violated. People with psychiatric disabilities are already far more likely to be the victims of violence than people without disabilities. The MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence – the most rigorous scientific study conducted to date by the country’s leading experts in mental health and violence – found that a person with a psychiatric disability is no more likely to be violent than a person without one.

The Obama Administration has made a serious investment in a myriad of programs designed to create community integration and community supports for people with all types of disabilities. Using the Social Security Representative Payee database to screen people with psychiatric disabilities only serves to inflate unfounded fears about people with mental illness. The Administration needs to focus on consistency in its efforts to encourage neighbors, landlords and employers to be partners in promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities. We urge the Obama Administration to ensure that the $500 million Federal investment focus on community-based and peer services, as opposed to funding institutional settings that warehouse people with psychiatric disabilities.

Access Living looks forward to working with our local, state and national elected officials on real solutions to reduce gun violence while protecting the rights of people with mental illness. We urge the Obama Administration to ensure that the $500 million Federal investment focus on community-based and peer services, as opposed to funding institutional settings that warehouse people with psychiatric disabilities.

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Established in 1980, Access Living is a non-profit, Chicago-based disability rights and service organization that provides individualized, peer-based services for people with disabilities. With a strong influence in public policy and social reform, Access Living is a leading force in the community. Committed to challenging stereotypes, protecting civil rights and breaking institutional and community barriers, Access Living is a nationally recognized change agent at the forefront of the disability rights movement.
Contact:
Gary Arnold
Title:
Public Affairs Manager
Email:
garnold@accessliving.org
Work:
312-640-2199
TTY:
312-640-2102