Corbett Stresses Mental Health After Newtown—But His Record Says Otherwise
During questions on last week’s Newtown massacre, in which 27 people were killed, Gov. Tom Corbett told reporters that mental illness, not guns, is to blame for the tragedy.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s an assault weapon or a handgun,” he said. “It’s a mental health issue that we have to work as hard as we possibly can.”
Which is a weird thing for Corbett to say. Because his 2012-2013 budget proposal saw a 20 percent cut to the funds counties get to provide mental health services. Those proposed cuts (the final tally was only 10 percent after it went through the Legislature) would have had effects on people with intellectual disabilities and drug/alcohol treatment.
The Mental Health Association of Pennsylvania noted at the time that Corbett had broken Pennsylvania’s promises of mental health treatment for those who need it, and asked advocates to fight his $110 million reduction to community mental health services and $12.6 million reduction to the Behavioral Health Services Initiative.
Locally, and all the way back in February, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Don Schwarz held a press conference to lay out what Corbett’s cuts meant before some funds were restored. As we wrote at the time of Schwarz’s information: “Mental health residential programs in the city, he said, will lose 500-600 beds; about 4,000 uninsured individuals with serious mental health illness will lose their outpatient services; 6-8 community walk-in centers for the mentally ill will be eliminated; 437 beds for those at drug and alcohol addiction centers will be gone; 3,000 people with intellectual disabilities will see a reduction in support; and 575 families per year will lose their DHS housing supports.”
Corbett’s hypocrisy here is noteworthy, sure. But the real issue here is not mental health. It’s the governor’s insistence on changing the conversation to anything but guns—even when the issue is one in which he can so easily be called out. Corbett, who has received an “A+” rating from the NRA, has been an ally of the gun lobby since well before he was leading our state down a path of Grover Norquist’s low-tax riddles. Back in 2009, when the governor was attorney general, he added his name to a “friend of the court” brief in support of an NRA lawsuit to strike down municipal gun restrictions in Chicago, PW reported at the time. And it worked.
He got the NRA’s endorsement in the 2010 race for governor and even addressed the NRA’s Annual Meetings Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum in 2011 (it took place in Pittsburgh), where he said: “The NRA is, indeed, charting the rivers of freedom, and I am proud to be a life member.”
He went on to thank the NRA for their support in his 2010 race. “It made a critical difference in my campaign,” he said, “and I could not have succeeded without you.”