Mental health expert Dr. John Santopietro moved to Charlotte shortly after the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The shooting has led to a national debate on mental health.
"The suffering that happened in the community, it was like a psychological nuclear blast, basically, that went off," Santopietro said.
Santopietro was part of a team that helped coordinate the response of counselors to the school.
Monday he was in Washington, DC, for a conference on the issue.
"People are suffering with mental illness and not getting treatment," he said.
Santopietro said the shooting is a reminder that the mental health care system is broken, but that people like Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, who police said killed 26 people, make up a small percentage of the mentally ill who carry out violent crimes.
He said often times, people with sever mental health issues hurt themselves before others.
"We have 38,000 suicides a year in this country, which is something that we don't talk about much," Santopietro said.
To solve the problem, Santopietro said the country has to remove the stigma associated with mental health problems.
"Mental illness is a just a medical issue like any other medical issue," he said. "Your brain is an organ just like your heart or your kidneys or your lungs."
Santopietro said nationally, 25 percent of the population has a psychiatric diagnosis. Five percent have severe mental illness, but less than half get any treatment at all
One of the solutions they're looking to implement in the CMC system is to make mental health care part of a patient's primary care.