Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Real Problem: A Completely Broken Mental Health System

Predictably, the media and the left have focused up one aspect of the tragic mass murders: Firearms.  There have been calls for radical gun control measures that almost certainly violate the 2nd Amendment - and even calls for its' repeal.

Massively under covered and under discussed is the US mental health system, even though every one of the recent shooters had mental health issues.  

For instance, did you know that:

1) Connecticut is one of the most difficult states in which to force a mentally ill person to get help.  According to this article: "A senior law enforcement official confirmed Lanza's anger at his mother over plans for "his future mental health treatment" is being looked at as a possible motive. Police said they had no evidence Lanza had been medicated when the killings occurred. But even if Lanza had a proven history of mental illness, having him forcibly committed would have been nearly impossible."

Not only did Adam Lanza's mother face an impossible task in attempting to get him committed - Connecticut's Democratic legislature actually killed a bill that would have enabled her to do just that in the last legislative session.

The biggest lesson here: Connecticut - the site of the Newtown school massacre - has some of the tightest gun laws in the nation and the some of the worst mental health commitment laws.   Why is the national media and the political left only talking about more gun control? 

Many other states are just as bad.

2) This issue bears directly on the effectiveness of our gun control laws - making them much less effective.

Most people do not realize that a mental health commitment of two weeks or longer triggers a lifetime prohibition on firearms ownership, under Federal law.  It also triggers a requirement that the state report the commitment to the FBI for inclusion in the background check database.  This ensures that if the person who has been committed attempts to buy a firearm at a dealer, they will be rejected and can actually be prosecuted and jailed for the attempt.

Gun control advocates are pushing for an expansion of the background check requirements to private sales - but none of them are talking about the flaws in the mental health system that sabotage the current background check system

3) The number of in patient mental health beds - the places where people can be committed for initial treatment, evaluation and stabilization - has declined from 525,000 in 1970 to 212,000 in 2002.    Since 1970, our population has increased by 38%.  This results in patients being released before they are ready - if they are even admitted.

Even in states that have better laws than Connecticut - such as my native state of California - the lack of beds often results in people being released who should be admitted.  I saw this again and again during my years as an EMT and paramedic.

4) The ACLU is largely responsible for the lack of good mental health commitment laws - because they have opposed ANY forced mental health treatment - often succeeding in preventing such laws,  according to this article from Mental Illness Policy Org.  The article also reports that the ACLU has done everything they could to empty every mental hospital.

Given this fact, is it any surprise that the ACLU is opposed to gun rights?  Is it any surprise that the left doesn't want to talk about the crisis in mental health care they have created?

Sadly, the left is only interested in accomplishing one thing: More limits on the gun rights of sane, law abiding citizens.  They are not interested in facts and they have no regard for the truth. If they did, they would focus on mental health, not guns - since we already have thousands of gun laws.  The latest school massacre happened in a state with tight gun laws and poor mental health laws.  Should that not be a lesson for us?

In this article, Dr. Keith Ablow outlines how our mental health system can be repaired.  In the article Dr. Ablow states that:

"The tragedies in Aurora, Colorado and in Newtown, Connecticut and the shooting of Congressman Gabrielle Giffords and President Reagan and thousands of murders around the country might well have been prevented if the mental health care system were appropriately robust and paid special attention to those at risk for violence."

He's right,

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