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Human Rights Commission tackles gun laws

GREENFIELD — On Monday, the town’s Human Rights Commission will initiate its own Gun Violence Reduction Initiative in response to the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Lewis Metaxas, chairman of the commission, said members are responding to a call of national and state leaders for city and town leaders across the country to begin “community dialogues” about issues like guns and mental illness.

The commission meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

Metaxas said he expects the commission will be talking about gun violence for several months. He said its goal will be to examine, debate, discuss and possibly advocate for proposed legislation by federal and state leaders, including, but not limited to, Vice President Joseph Biden’s suggestion for a task force, Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposals, and state Rep. David Linsky’s comprehensive gun violence reduction bill.

The commission will be looking for residents’ input, as well as input from experts from the Franklin County area who serve in law enforcement, mental health, human services and education. The commission will announce, at least before each meeting, who will be speaking about what subject.

Metaxas said the commission hopes to strike a balance between advocating for victims’ rights and the rights given everyone by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The commission will begin its debate on Monday by talking about a bill previously filed by state Rep. Kay Khan to establish assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) for people with severe mental disorders, including schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depressive disorder, in the state.

Metaxas said there are currently 44 states that permit the use of assisted outpatient treatment, a court-ordered treatment for individuals who have a history of medication noncompliance, as a condition of someone remaining in the community.

He said the commission will look at studies and data from different states that use AOT, showing its effectiveness in reducing the incidence and duration of hospitalization, homelessness, arrests and incarcerations, victimization, and violent episodes.

Metaxas said some data shows that AOT increases treatment compliance and promotes long-term voluntary compliance, while reducing caregiver stress.

The six states that do not have AOT are Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada and Tennessee.

“The commission seeks and encourages the input of the members of the Greenfield and Franklin County communities in this endeavor,” said Metaxas.

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