Back in mid-February, Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) trumped the addition of $15 million for mental health first aid training that was passed in a $1.1 trillion spending bill. Sadly, Barber also connected the funding to helping stop future instances of mass shootings — a connection that simply has no basis in reality. But hey, at least he’s doing something.
This past week, the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, announced $30 million to help research into brain trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He also promised last year to hire at least 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.
Which do you think is doing more to help mental health? Government or private citizens & industry?
What’s astounding is how much money the government spends in any given year on a wide variety of items. For instance, in that same $1.1 trillion spending bill, Congress also authorized $7 million for demolition of some old NIH office space, and $35 million for “railroad research” (the vast majority of railroads in America are privately owned and operated). $2.5 million was set aside to “enforce State laws prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors” (can’t states enforce their own state laws with their own money?). And my favorite: $60 million for a boll weevil eradication program (provided that the Secretary deem the pink bollworm to be a boll weevil).
All the while we have politicians scrambling to show just how dedicated they are to mental health research and expanded treatment programs.
Sadly, they don’t put any serious money where their mouth is. $15 million is practically an insult.
Howard Schultz, however, is my new mental health hero. Here’s a man who saw how badly the Department of Veterans Affairs was treating returning vets from Afghanistan. Here’s a man who saw how underfunded the federal government deems basic neurobiological research, and how it could use some help.
‘They’re not coming home to a celebration. They’re coming home to an American public that really doesn’t understand, and never embraced, what these people have done.’
He promised that the donated $30 million would be used to fund research and treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injuries suffered by veterans of overseas conflict such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
Foundational brain research should squarely rest on the shoulders of the federal government. This is not some pie-in-the-sky stuff — this is learning just how the brain functions, and how trauma happens in otherwise ordinary people. The federal government is doing a sad job of it when an individual feels like he needs to step forward to help with this research funding.
I’m not ignoring that Obama committed $110 million in brain science funding for this year. That’s a nice start as well. But seriously, when a private U.S. citizen can step forward and match one-third of that amount in a second, that tells you how little that $110 million really is in this area. Billions are needed to solve this problem, but instead the federal government continues to pour billions into things like “defense spending” — outspending the next 10 countries combined. Every. Single. Year.
Of course $30 million alone won’t solve all the mysteries of PTSD. But it’s beautiful to see such a selfless donation made in the name of basic brain science that will ultimately benefit the millions of vets who return home with PTSD. And it’s awesome that this is being done by a private individual (and the 10,000 jobs promise, with the help of his company) instead of the federal government.
Thanks, Howard Schultz.
Feds give $15 million for mental health ‘first aid’ training: A first step in addressing the mental health aspect of mass shootings