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Supreme Court Rules on Housing, Marriage Equality, and Health Care, New Police Shooting Data –

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It was an incredibly busy news week! In this week’s In Case You Missed It (our roundup of articles touching on psychology, health, mental health and social justice issues from multiple news and commentary websites), we cover the  landmark Supreme Court decisions on housing discrimination, marriage equality, and the Affordable Care Act, new data on fatal police shootings in the U.S., and a breakthrough on ending mother-to-child HIV transmission in Cuba.

In a major decision last Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld a key part of the Affordable Care Act that provides health insurance subsidies to all qualifying Americans, awarding a major victory to President Obama. In the 6-to-3 decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered a sympathetic affirmation of what has become known as Obamacare, and his legal reasoning seemed to insulate the 2010 law against the legion of opponents who want to undermine the program before it takes hold in American life. From the White House Rose Garden, Obama declared: “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” For more read our press release applauding the Supreme Court’s ruling: APA Lauds Supreme Court’s Upholding of Federal Health Insurance Exchanges.

Although it did not garner as much news coverage last Thursday, the Supreme Court also reaffirmed a federal law passed in 1968 to combat housing discrimination by holding that the law allows not only claims for intentional discrimination but also, claims that cover practices that have a discriminatory effect, even if they were not motivated by an intent to discriminate. Civil rights advocates say such “disparate impact” claims are essential to combat subtle instances of discrimination. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 5-4 opinion for a closely divided Court concerning the scope of the Fair Housing Act. “Much progress remains to be made in our nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation,” he said, noting that cities have become more diverse under the Fair Housing Act.  “The Court acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society,” he wrote. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Justice Department will make use of this ruling in the future. For more on ways to overcome prejudice and promote diversity, check out APA’s Dual Pathways to a Better America report.

Before gay marriage became the law of the land in the United States with the Supreme Court’s decision last Friday morning, researchers had examined how bans on same-sex marriage affected the mental health of gay partners. In 2010, a study conducted by Columbia University psychologist Mark Hatzenbuehler and sponsored in part by the National Institutes of Health found that gay people living in states where same-sex marriage was banned suffered from several psychiatric disorders at a much higher rate than gay people living in states where same-sex marriage was legal. Similarly, a 2009 California Health Interview Survey, the largest population-based state health survey in the country, found that psychological stress was lower among gays, lesbians and bisexuals living in a state that legally recognizes same-sex marriages, compared to gays, lesbians and bisexuals living in states where it was banned. Five years later, the Supreme Court’s action affirming marriage equality will hopefully diminish the mental health problems that same-sex couples face. For more, read our press release responding to the SCOTUS ruling: APA Praises Supreme Court Decision Affirming Right to Same-Sex Marriage.

As a national debate continues over the use of deadly force by police, particularly against minorities, The Washington Post is tracking every fatal shooting by a police officer acting in the line of duty in 2015. Six months into the year, The Post’s database has confirmed 462 fatal shootings by police. One of the primary reasons The Post is collecting this data is that the currently available tallies of fatal police shootings are woefully inadequate and incomplete. The primary source of police shooting data — often cited in news reports — is compiled by the FBI. But because reporting is voluntary, many of the nation’s police departments do not report — including entire states. Since 2011, less than 3 percent of the nation’s 18,000 state and local police agencies have reported fatal shootings by their officers. Through the first half of 2015, The Post has already identified more fatal police shootings than the FBI has recorded in any entire year since 1976.

Meanwhile, according to a Guardian investigation, police in the United States are killing people at a rate that would result in 1,100 fatalities by the end of this year, with an average of three people killed per day during the first half of 2015. The Counted, a project working to report and crowdsource names and a series of other data on every death caused by law enforcement in the US this year, found that 547 people had been killed by the end of June. In total, 478 of those people were shot and killed, while 31 died after being shocked by a Taser, 16 died after being struck by police vehicles, and 19 – including 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore – have died after altercations in police custody. When adjusted to accurately reflect the U.S. population, the totals indicate that Black people are being killed by police at more than twice the rate of white and Hispanic or Latino people. Black people killed by police were also significantly more likely to have been unarmed.

Distraught people, deadly results The Washington Post

Individuals with mental illness are also of particular concern with regard to fatal police shootings. The Washington Post finds that nationwide, police have shot and killed 124 people this year in the throes of mental or emotional crisis. The dead account for a quarter of the 462 people shot to death by police in the first six months of 2015. The vast majority were armed, but in most cases, the police officers who shot them were not responding to reports of a crime. More often, the police officers were called by relatives, neighbors or other bystanders worried that a mentally fragile person was behaving erratically, reports show. More than 50 people were explicitly suicidal. More than half the killings involved police agencies that have not provided their officers with state-of-the-art training to deal with the mentally ill. And in many cases, officers responded with tactics that quickly made a volatile situation even more dangerous. Criminal-justice experts say that police are often ill equipped to respond to such individuals — and that the encounters too often end in needless violence.

Cuba on Tuesday earned the distinction of becoming the first country to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of the HIV virus, an achievement that global public health officials said they hoped would inspire others to invest in campaigns and policies to try to do the same. The milestone is a key step toward eradicating the virus even without a cure, an idea that was once considered a pipe dream but that in recent years has been considered a realistic goal by world leaders. Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement that experience in Cuba “shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible.” In the early years of the epidemic, the birth of so many HIV-positive babies to women who were HIV-positive was one of the most heartbreaking problems facing health officials. Today doctors can cut the risk of transmission to just over 1 percent if antiretrovirals are given to both the mother and the child.

What do you think of these stories? What did we leave out?

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