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One Year After Newtown Tragedy, Lawmakers Shift Focus To Service Those Struggling With Mental Health Issues

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BRIGANTINE, N.J. (CBS)–From the tears over Newtown, Connecticut came vows to make change, so a nearly a year later you might wonder, have we made progress?

Former US Congressman Patrick Kennedy says, “I have to believe, and I’ve spoken to some of the families, that they want something positive to come from this tragedy.”

He is one of the country’s leading advocates for mental health reform.

He says the silver lining to the Sandy Hook tragedy is the publicity shooter Adam Lanza created for improving mental health treatment.

Attitudes are starting to shift from viewing mental illness as a character flaw to a medical issue.

Kennedy says,”We’re now in the process to change healthcare so that mental health is treated the same way as all these other physical health conditions.”

Over the last year since Sandy Hook, New Jersey has made changes to address both mental health treatment and gun violence.

Ten new gun control laws were signed into law including a measure that connects certain mental health records to background checks to buy guns.

Another big step is the mental health parity program which is expanding mental health benefits for 880,000 public employees and their dependants. Now biological and non-biological mental disorders will receive the same coverage.

“If it takes that kind of tragedy to get people startled enough to think ‘hey maybe we should do something about treating mental illness’ as opposed to ignoring it, then that would be something positive.”

Kennedy says one year later Sandy Hook is still provoking plenty of positive dialogue and hopefully more action to follow.

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