WASHINGTON -- When President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden unveil their proposals Wednesday to reduce gun violence, some of the advice will have come from experts right here in New Orleans.
Doctors from LSU Health Sciences Center and Tulane collaborated on this effort.
Monday night, Tulane public health criminology expert Dr. Peter Scharf and LSU psychiatrist Dr. Jose' Calderon-Abbo got the urgent phone call around dinner time. The vice president's task force on gun violence wanted their expert opinions in three hours.
"We managed to get it out around (10 p.m.) our time," said Dr. Calderon-Abbo.
They were already preparing the paper of their evidence-based information for next Tuesday, to present to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security at a hearing on The Youth Promise Act.
Now their findings on how mental illness affects both mass murders and the daily - but just as deadly - urban violence is being read by the White House.
"That's another form of mental illness. The only problem is we don't diagnose the kids and we definitely don't treat them. So if you're white in the suburbs and already have a psychiatrist, you're labeled mentally ill. But the black on black murders we see in the city, we're less likely to attribute mental illness as a cause, but it's probably there," Dr. Scharf said.
"If you compound mental illness along with substance abuse, unemployment, and other dynamic factors that are going on in the community, victimization, lack of community ties, etc., then the risk of violence increases significantly," said Dr. Calderon-Abbo.
Dr. Calderon-Abbo says a majority of people with a mental illness end up with a second one, addiction. It's called dual diagnosis.
So the country needs a serious drug policy talk that includes prevention and medical treatment, since most will not seek it on their own.
Dr. Scharf said everyone from doctors, to judges, police and even classmates and Facebook friends must report and follow up on potential human time bombs.
"My daughter psychologist says the kids know the murders are happening before the principals do or police do. We got to get the police, the courts, the D.A. to have these warnings," said Dr. Scharf. And he says mentally ill people who are a danger to themselves and others, must be kept from getting guns.
"That's the fundamental problem," said Dr. Scharf.
Two people in Washington, D.C. also collaborated on the report with the local doctors. One is the founder and director of The Center for Mind Body Medicine.