At a press conference where she was presenting her 2013-2014 budget, Gov. Nikki Haley spoke at length about the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last Friday that claimed the lives of 26 people including 20 children.*
Haley said the shooting was, “Absolutely heartbreaking.”
“My hope and prayer is that those lives weren’t taken in vain and this country will have a conversation about mental health,” Haley said.
Haley’s response was a marked contrast to that of other governor’s, such as Virginia’s .
Haley said, ”If we do mental health treatment right, we can detect it in schools.
There are parents out there who are fearful for their children and have to make decisions for the children because they love them but they know they are a danger to society.”
The governor said mental health funding has long been a priority and the events in Connecticut hammered the point home.
“One in four people are affected by mental health issues. As a mother and a wife, I see it. And when you’re in an economic crisis you really start to see it. People feel desperate. This is a time where I hope people will say we’ve put mental health funding off long enough. We keep saying we’ll do it next year and then a Connecticut happens.”
When asked about possible gun control legislation Haley said, “We can’t be emotional. We have to step back and be smart. Connecticut has tough gun laws. Look at its mental health funding. No amount of gun control is going to prevent dangerous people from getting guns.”
According to this report from the National Association on Mental Illness, in 2009 South Carolina ranked 45th in per capita funding on mental illness at $60.24. Connecticut was 9th at $197.62. The national average was $122.90.
Haley called the previous administration’s funding levels for mental health “immoral” and has made it a priority to restore funding.
Haley did not comment on the proposed bill to arm teachers.
NOTE: This story originally listed the incorrect number of people killed in the Newtwon school shooting.