More than two years after it was convened, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has concluded its work. The commission presented its 277-page final report to Gov. Dannel Malloy Friday. Malloy formed the group in early 2013 to make recommendations for policy changes in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012.
The commission's three main focuses were mental health, school safety, and gun control. Some of its gun control recommendations have already been adopted: a 2013 bill signed by Malloy set limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines and put mandatory background checks on gun purchases.
But one commission member is worried some of the mental health recommendations don't have a clear future.
"The elephant in the room is the cost of this document," said commission member Wayne Sandford as the commission presented its report to Malloy Friday. "There's no doubt that this document includes many, many items that cost money. And I don't think it could come at a worse time for the state of Connecticut."
Malloy's two-year, $40 billion budget proposal included $1.3 billion in spending cuts, including cuts to mental health services. The commission described Connecticut's mental health system as "fragmented." And one mental health advocate is concerned funding cuts won't make the situation better.
"The commission recommends more social workers, more psychologists, more guidance counselors," said Sharon Langer, Advocacy Director of Connecticut Voices for Children. "The Governor's budget actually proposes a decrease overall in educational funding. And so it makes one wonder how schools would be able to fund those additional supports for students."
Malloy defended his budget to reporters after the final Sandy Hook Advisory Commission meeting Friday, saying he did increase parts of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services budget. He said other cuts were necessary because the state is in a tough fiscal year — and that he thinks many of the commission's recommendations will eventually be implemented.
"It is probable that we need to do more," he said. "I accept that obligation. And I think Connecticut will rise to that occasion. The making of budgets and the decision of how to spend money is never easy, particularly in difficult times."
Malloy said he took the commission's recommendations into consideration as he assembled his budget proposal.
Some Key Recommendations In The Final Report:
- Safe school design should "enhance, not diminish" learning.
- Schools should be designed so that teachers can easily notice any potential signs of threat.
- School designs and security protocols should be updated on a regular basis.
- Firearms should require registration, and ammunition should only be sold for registered firearms.
- Limits on the amount of ammunition that can be purchased at one time.
- Shell casings should have "serial numbers" that would allow ammunition to be tracked.
- Build a "comprehensive, integrated" system of care to replace the state's "fragmented" mental health system (The commission recommends more coordination between state agencies and a streamlined system for paying for mental health).
- Make community treatment programs more widely available.