Days After Rauner Proposes Mental Health Cuts, Madigan's Violence Prevention Task Force Begins

Feb 23, 2015

House Speaker Michael Madigan chose Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, (pictured) to chair the new violence prevention task force.
Credit ILGA.gov

During his inauguration speech, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan announced a new mission -- figuring out what Illinois can do to prevent violence, like mass shootings at schools. A bipartisan task force formed to study the issue will meet for the first time today in Chicago.

Look back at the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Columbine, Northern Illinois University, and Rep. Greg Harris says you'll see commonalities. Like missed opportunities to help the killers with mental health issues that had been detected, but weren't properly treated.

Harris, a Chicago Democrat, will chair the new, bipartisan task force as it explores what Illinois can do to peel back the red tape, and make sure children with mental illness don't fall through the cracks.

"There are so many bureaucratic barriers sometimes, that prevent a family - even if they know something is wrong. Or finding someone who can care for them. Or finding you know, "what income quintile are you in? Have you filled out the right form?" No. We as a society have got to start reaching out and helping these young people with needs," Harris said. "We as a society have to start reaching out and helping these young people with needs. We've got to look at what the evidence shows us. We've got to put money into preventing these things. Because there's always time for recriminations once something horrible happens. But if we can prevent one or two of these young people form going out with a weapon, and injuring themself or others, we will have done a great deal."

Mental health experts from Chicago's Lurie Children's Hospital are scheduled to testify at today's hearing, and an F.B.I. agent is on tap to brief legislators about mass shooting trends.

It comes days after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, faced with guiding Illinois out of a huge budget deficit, proposed cutting state mental health funding. While the spending plan seeks to reduce mental health funding generally, Rauner wants to increase spending on services for prison and juvenile detention inmates.