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Mental health the focus of Sandy Hook Advisory Committee

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Now that Connecticut lawmakers passed tough gun laws, the debate has shifted to helping those with mental illness.

The Sandy Hook Advisory Committee, created by Gov. Dannel Malloy in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, has looked into gun control, school security and now mental health.

The group met Friday and will continue to meet as it looks for ways to improve services.

In most of the mass shootings, mental illness has been an underlying factor. It will take time to understand what's needed and how to make the system better.

The needs of those with mental illness are many - more intervention, especially for school-aged children.

While many private insurance plans have access to healthcare, the cost can get high.

There's also a few places to get treatment. State reimbursement rates are low, and there are few incentives for companies to provide care, and just as important the stigma of having a mental illness.

"We have to treat (mental illness) like it's a physical ailment," said Scott Jackson, of the Sandy Hook advisory Committee. "If you break your leg, no one points at you or ostracizes you for going to the doctor."

Improving mental health may be an ongoing struggle, yet the fight for tougher gun control in Connecticut is now over.

Lawmakers passed sweeping changes and now the battle wages on in Washington.

This week, Newtown families went to Capitol Hill and urged Congress to seize the moment and do something to try to prevent another mass shooting.

Nicole Hockley's 6-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook.

"We're not just a number," she said. "There are stats all over the place about the thousands of people that die. My son is not just a number. His name was Dylan and it's important people remember that."

The Sandy Hook Advisory Committee plans to meet several more times before making any recommendations on mental health.

Copyright 2013 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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