70% of Texas counties have more gun dealers than mental health providers, I-Team finds

SAN FRANCISCO -- There are at least twice as many gun dealers as mental health care providers across more than one-fifth of the country, according to an ABC7 data analysis of active federal licenses maintained the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 41 counties across the U.S. have at least 10 times as many gun dealers than mental health care providers.

70% of the counties in Texas have more gun dealers than mental health providers. This includes Uvalde -- where a gunman massacred 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School this week.

"Texas ranks the lowest in mental health funding...zero...last," said Dr. Ranak Trivedi, an assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.

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According to the 2022 State of Mental Health in America report, Texas ranked last out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental healthcare. Texas Governor Greg Abbott reportedly cut millions in funding from the department that oversees mental health programs.

However, Dr. Trivedi said it's important to remember "we often try to conflate these mass shootings with a mental illness and there's no mental illness around being a mass murderer or mass shooter. That is not a recognized psychiatric condition, but I do think there's a lot of people in distress that seek weapons."

The areas of the country with the highest rate of gun dealers versus mental health providers include Iowa, which has two counties in the top five, Texas, Missouri and Indiana. Warren County in Iowa is at the top of the list and has 23 times more gun dealers than mental health providers.

That's not the case in California -- the state is one of seven across the country where every county has more mental health providers than gun dealers. San Francisco County has the highest rate of mental health providers compared to gun dealers across the nation. There's only one gun dealer in the county compared to 4,110 mental health providers.

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"It doesn't surprise me," said St. Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). "In San Francisco we have always prioritized access to mental health care, invest in it, we have a culture in access to treatment and we have also prioritized reducing the number of guns in our city."

Sen. Wiener passed a law that goes into effect in July that will expand access to mental healthcare for those uninsured. It will require follow-up appointments to be available every two weeks if needed.

"One of the challenges people face is when people have don't have insurance sometimes they're able to get a first appointment with a therapist or other mental health professional, then they can't get a second or follow up appointment," he said.

Among the top 15 counties with the highest rate of mental health providers compared to gun dealers, San Francisco is followed by Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York. The next California counties that come close are Alameda County (8th highest) and Marin County (13th highest).

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