AS WITH THE IMMIGRATION REFORM PROPOSALS WHERE GOOD ISSUES ARE USED TO IMPLEMENT POLICY THAT IS NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST I WANT TO LOOK AGAIN AT THIS GUN POLICY AND EMPHASIZE THAT IT FAILS TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS YET AGAIN AS IT SEEKS TO CRIMINALIZE AND DENY PEOPLE OF PERSONAL RIGHTS.
THIS IS MY COMMENT TO MY PUBLIC MEDIA THAT REFUSES TO STATE WHAT ALL THE 26 RULES ARE AND HOW THEY WOULD AFFECT PEOPLE:
Fraser Smith keeps alluding to the Republican gun lovers as the only decent from the massive 26 rule gun control policy embraced by O'Malley and written by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health....the War on Guns as progressive democrats like to call it. We all know the 'at risk' list will cast a huge net on who will not be able to own guns and the penalties will incarcerate another record number of citizens in American prisons. Progressives see gun control as first and foremost a justice issue....or the lack thereof. We all know that poverty fuels crime and gun violence so there is the defunding of all that helps underserved youth find safe haven and long-term personal support all because we have massive corporate fraud draining our government coffers that no justice agency will address.
Today I'd like to address the mental illness issue as we all know that is a factor the gun violence although being given too much of a spotlight as mental health is responsible for a smaller percentage of gun violence. Using just an example here in Charles Village I know of one man with obvious schizophrenic tendencies walking the streets who one can guage his treatment or lack of by his behavior. When he is medicated he is quiet and passive and when he isn't he is verbally abusive and aggressive. The problem for him and all of us is that he is mostly off meds.
In Maryland one can ask any social worker off record what their case load is like and they will tell you they have hundreds of cases each to manage some as high as 500 cases. The recommended for adequate care is 50 cases so we know that Maryland's mental health treatment is all on paper not a reality. People are brought in to be given meds which they take for a day or so and then, because there is no case management they lose or forget to take these meds. THIS ISN'T ROCKET SCIENCE! The State of Maryland bills the Federal government for case work for hundreds of patients milking the Medicaid Trust for services not rendered. Pharma gets billions in medications at inflated prices and pay almost no taxes to support government coffers.
THIS IS THE MENTAL HEALTH POLICY THAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IN ORDER TO MITIGATE GUN VIOLENCE. YOU START BY ENFORCING LAW AND ENDING GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION BEFORE YOU TAKE AWAY PEOPLE'S RIGHTS AND INCARCERATE.
In most cases of mass killing involving the mentally ill it is found the killers were not receiving the level of mental health care they needed. The mother of the Sandy Hook killer was found to have written she could not get help with her son and feared his behavior would have consequences. The Dark Knight movie killer had a university counselor who knew something was up but did not have the time to pursue the problems. THIS IS A RESULT OF A COMPLETE DISMANTLING OF ALL OF OUR MENTAL HEALTH FACILITIES TO WHERE WE HAVE POLS RELYING ON MEDICATIONS AND INCARCERATION TO CARE FOR THE MENTALLY ILL. That is third world stuff folks and it happens because of the move away from corporate and wealth taxation that is emptying our government coffers.
When a Third Way corporate democrat comes out for gun control and never mentions the deplorable conditions in mental health and allow for the continuing defunding of government AS IS NOW HAPPENING AT ALL LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT THROUGH LOST TAX REVENUE AND MASSIVE CORPORATE FRAUD......those pols are lying to you about their sincerity on the issue! It is Third Way Obama and Congress that defunded Medicaid and sent it to the states knowing it would be dismantled.......THAT IS HOW MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING IS MADE FOR GOODNESS SAKES!!!!!
MENTAL ILLNESS IS A SMALL PART OF GUN VIOLENCE AND IT IS TAKING ON THE BRUNT OF POLITICAL SOLUTIONS MUCH OF WHICH DENY PEOPLE'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS!!
So, do we take all kinds of personal rights away from people.....like privacy issues surrounding releasing medical records on those having mental treatment so it can be in a database for police that anybody can access for any reason? Do we allow an arbitrary 'at risk' list of people who can't have guns while others do that is so riddled with injustice as to make it a hit list for any restriction.....who is a felon? The homeless charged with loitering or the banker having stolen millions of dollars and not charged? How far do you go with mental health issues......will all addicts....drug and alcohol be banned for life because after all addiction is a lifelong health issue? We know a percentage of depressed people kill themselves and sometimes their partners so we then ban anyone seeking medication for depression from gun ownership?
Of course all of this is followed by what all mental health professionals say: These kinds of laws will keep people from seeking the help they need and make these gun killings worse. AND IT WILL. WE ARE SEEING THAT WITH OUR MILITARY VETS WHO CAN'T GET HELP FOR THEIR PTSS!
So, if gun control policy had remained at the 'banning assault rifles/ammo and licensing and background check it would have been fine. The expanded rules that everyone knows lies behind will make what was common sense laws become yet another fight!!!
BOOST MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.....DO NOT LABEL MENTAL HEALTH PATIENTS AS INHERENTLY DANGEROUS!!!!!
Some say efforts to boost mental health treatment to combat gun violence are misguided
February 09, 2013 9:00 am • STEVEN ELBOW | The Capital Times
Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.
The big winners in the effort to reduce gun violence are shaping up to be mental health advocates. Not only is Gov. Scott Walker willing to pump $30 million into boosting mental health services in Wisconsin, in other states Democrats and Republicans alike are calling for similar measures. Mental health funding is also a key component of President Barack Obama’s gun control initiative.
Advocates are positively giddy over the new focus on mental health.
"We're ecstatic," Shel Gross, director of public policy for Mental Health America of Wisconsin and chairman of the Wisconsin Council on Mental Health, was quoted in the Wisconsin State Journal as saying after Walker announced the funding. "One of my colleagues who works in children's services was in tears. These are things we've been working on for years."
But Scott Bryant-Comstock, president of the Children’s Mental Health Network, says wait a minute. There's a downside.
“There’s a new stigma in town: guns + mental illness = violence,” he writes on the group’s website. “And it should break the hearts of advocates nationwide.”
The effort to paint America's gun violence as a mental health issue was on full display when Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, called for putting mental health records into the national background check database, while rejecting any suggestions of expanded background checks or gun restrictions.
The focus on mental illness could have a number of unforeseen effects, critics say, from stigmatizing mental illness to the point where those in need will avoid seeking help, to overzealousness in categorizing those with emotional problems as potentially violent.
Bryant-Comstock says the tendency to boil complex problems down to the sound bite is in full play here.
“The popular press is doing a wonderful job of lumping it all together so that suddenly anyone with a mental health challenge is a suspect for violence,” he writes.
Among Bryant-Comstock’s worries is that the knee-jerk emphasis on mentally ill people will lead to an uptick of admissions of those feared to be violent just by virtue of mental illness to psychiatric hospital beds and residential programs, when community-based programs are more appropriate.
"You know what I fear most?" he writes. "A lot of bluster about improving mental health services which will result in increased psychiatric hospital beds and residential programs — not that those services don't have their place — they do. But we have learned so much over the past 20 years about a community approach to serving youth with mental health challenges and their families. Why are we not hearing more about those approaches in the popular press?"
Jeri Bonavia, director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE), calls the focus on mental health "a mistake."
"We know that there are some problems with getting mental health records into the background check system, and I think that needs to be addressed," she says. "But it can’t be that we turn our attention just to mental health issues related to gun violence because people suffering from mental illness make up a very small percentage of the perpetrators of gun violence."
But in Wisconsin, mental health funding is all that Republicans, who run all levels of government, are talking about when it comes to gun control. In Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed a $1.4 billion plan to require certain mental health facilities to expand services and access.
That despite the fact that few of those who have perpetrated mass shootings have been diagnosed with any mental illness. Adam Lanza, who shot 20 children and six adults in the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., shootings, had no known history of mental illness. Nor did Wade Michael Page, who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., last August. James Holmes, who killed 12 people and wounded 58 at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last July, had been treated for mental illness, but that didn't bar him from purchasing a gun.
Meanwhile, the proposal most Americans see as the most sensible route, universal background checks, faces an uncertain fate as congressional Republicans and Democrats alike fear being painted as anti-gun.
A poll this week by Quinnipiac University shows that more than 90 percent of American voters support background checks for all gun buyers, which would close the so-called gun show loophole. And that's where Bonavia says Wisconsin should be focusing its effort. Her group is currently in the midst of a petition drive to urge Walker to propose background checks.
Currently only seven states require a background check for all gun purchases. Four other states require background checks at gun shows for handguns only.
In 33 states there are no requirements for background checks for purchases from private dealers at gun shows, which means that people who can’t pass a background check can still buy guns.
Even former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan says he wants to close the gun show loophole. But the NRA, which is used to getting its way, calls that the first step to a national firearms registry.
And LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive officer, called background checks a fraud.
“It’s never going to be universal,” he told Fox News on Feb. 3. The criminals aren’t going to comply with it.”
Let's not forget that LaPierre made a point of marrying gun violence and mental illness in the wake of the Newtown shootings.
"The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them," LaPierre after the shootings. "They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?"
Bryant-Comstock isn't alone in his concern about equating mental illness with violence. The American Psychiatric Association blasted LaPierre's characterization of mentally ill violent offenders as "lunatics" and "monsters."
"Only 4 to 5 percent of violent crimes are committed by people with mental illness," Dilip Jeste, the president of the APA, says in a statement. "About one quarter of all Americans have a mental disorder in any given year, and only a very small percentage of them will ever commit violent crimes."
Adds the association's CEO, James Scully:
"This is simply a relic of the past and has no place in our public dialogue. People who are clearly not mentally ill commit violent crimes and perform terrible acts every day. Unfortunately, Mr. LaPierre's statements serve only to increase the stigma around mental illness and further the misconception that those with mental disorders are likely to be dangerous."
THE PROBLEM WITH GUN VIOLENCE IS THE GUN MANUFACTURERS WANTED TO MAKE BILLIONS IN PROFITS AND SATURATED OUR SOCIETY WITH GUNS AND GUN CULTURE. THAT IS THE PROBLEM. PLACE THE RESPONSIBILITY ON THE GUN BUSINESS TO REMOVE GUNS FROM THE CULTURE LIKE CANCER/ANTI-SMOKING FORCED CIGARETTES OUR.......
THE REASONS WE ARE SEEING THIS PUSH ON MENTAL HEALTH IS TO PROTECT THOSE GUN PROFITS.
Mental Health Solutions Alone Can't Thwart Gun Violence, Experts Say
Posted: 01/31/2013 8:11 am EST | Updated: 02/04/2013 2:11 pm EST Huffington Post
When it comes to preventing gun-related violence, President Barack Obama and the National Rifle Association agree on one key priority: Both call for measures aimed at preventing people with mental illnesses from owning firearms.
In the days after a lone gunman massacred 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., Obama called for an expansion of mental health services and more stringent background checks for gun buyers to screen out those who may pose a danger. The NRA proposed the creation of a national registry of people with mental illnesses to help limit their ability to purchase guns.
But public health and firearms experts assert that focusing on mental illness is unlikely to achieve a significant reduction in gun violence, because the vast majority of shootings are the handiwork of people who do not fit the profile of those deemed dangerous. Moreover, by shifting the debate away from gun control and toward mental health concerns, proponents run the risk of further stigmatizing mental illness, discouraging those who confront it from seeking professional help.
"Gun violence is a mental health issue only to a very small extent and to a much smaller extent than most people assume," said Paul Appelbaum, a psychiatrist and the director of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons' Division of Law, Ethics and Psychiatry.
"Most gun violence is just not committed by people with mental illness," he said. “Were we somehow to stop violence by anyone with a mental illness -- as unlikely as that outcome might be -- we would be safer, but only a teeny bit safer. As much as these incidents attract everybody's attention and concern, they are a tiny fraction of the people who get killed in this country every year."
Despite the earnest discussion of mental illness that follows seemingly every headline-capturing mass shooting, people with mental illnesses are responsible for no more than 5 percent of all violent acts in the United States, according to research published by the Institute of Medicine in 2005. By contrast, an estimated 20 percent of American adults reported having some form of mental illness in 2011, and 5 percent reported a serious mental illness, according to a survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released this month.
Mental illness is the cause of fewer mass shootings than the public perceives, Appelbaum said. "If you look at the lists that are put together of those kinds of events, they are primarily family and workplace violence episodes," he said.
But in the policy arena, public perception functions as effective reality, given the dearth of data. No thorough study exists establishing a connection between mental illnesses and mass shootings, Appelbaum said. Neither does a database of mass shootings that would allow researchers to flesh out a useful profile of those seemingly prone to horrific violence.
What's more, experts say many if not most of the gun-related tragedies that have captured national attention in recent years appear unlikely to have been prevented, even had stronger rules been in place barring people with mental illnesses from owning weapons.
Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter in Newtown, Conn., had no known history of mental illness, despite unconfirmed reports that he was diagnosed with a form of autism. He used firearms legally purchased by his mother, herself one of his victims.
Nor does mental illness appear to explain other widely publicized mass murders, including the slaying of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin last year, or the shooting rampage that took the lives of eight people in Manchester, Conn., in 2010.
Other mass murderers, including Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho and Long Island Rail Road killer Colin Ferguson, may have failed background checks had a federal database been more complete. James Holmes, who allegedly killed 12 people in Aurora, Colo., last year, had been treated for mental illness but didn't meet the legal standards that would have blocked him from buying guns.
Zeroing in on mental health problems in the face of an overwhelming preponderance of shootings involving people without such conditions threatens to mislead the public about the nature of the epidemic at hand, argues Garen Wintemute, the director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine.
"We're focused on mass shootings and those perpetrators are thoroughly investigated and we come away thinking that they're mentally ill," when that isn't always the case, said Wintemute, who is also a medical doctor. "The vast majority of firearms violence is not committed by people who are crazy. It is committed by people like us."
This disconnect in public understanding of gun violence stems from the nature of the events that tend to stimulate attention, such as the tragedy in Newtown. The media saturation that follows turns the likes of Adam Lanza and James Holmes into representatives of the much broader issue of gun violence, while prompting revulsion over the scope of the problem.
The problem is indeed vast by any statistical measure. Homicides and suicides using guns made up 57 percent of violent deaths in the United States in 2010, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That year, guns killed 30,470 people.
But those with mental illness are flawed examples of the causes of American gun violence, and putting a spotlight on their cases oversimplifies the problem while effectively demonizing their ailments, said Stephen Hoge, a professor at the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry and a forensic psychiatrist.
"People want to believe that the problem is easy to solve, and that they can somehow insulate themselves from the risks of gun violence by insulating themselves from people with mental illness," said Hoge.
In reality, gun violence tends to be provoked by commonplace situations faced by people who do not stand out as particularly remarkable in terms of their mental well-being, he added. "In some cases, the perpetrators are motivated by delusions or psychotic beliefs,” Hoge said. “In other cases, they're motivated by jealousy, rage, feelings of having been intimidated, disrespected, abused.”
In short, they rarely fit neatly into a readily identifiable profile that lends itself to prevention.
President Obama’s calls for expanded services to combat mental illness drew praise from the American Psychiatric Association and other advocacy organizations.
"There are so many people who need mental health care," said Ronald Honberg, the national director for policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "It's unfortunate that we only talk about the holes in our mental health system and the need for better mental health care in this country when really horrible things happen."
But advocates for expanded mental health services also fear that such attention comes at a profound cost that sets back effective treatment.
"There's an undeniable stigmatizing impact of discussing mental health in the context of gun violence," said Appelbaum, of Columbia University. This furthers the stereotype that people with mental illnesses are more violent than the rest of society, he said.
That public perception is reflected in a survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week: 46 percent of respondents said they believe those with serious mental illnesses are more dangerous than others, 71 percent said they wouldn't want to work closely with a person who had a mental illness, and 67 percent said they wouldn't want a neighbor with a mental illness.
Opponents of stricter limits on firearms ownership, like bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, stress that keeping guns out of the wrong hands is the key to reducing violence. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has called for a "national registry" of people with mental illnesses, and pro-gun-rights lawmakers emphasize addressing mental health over policies that would reduce firearms ownership.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, LaPierre expressed support for items on Obama's mental health agenda while rejecting gun-control measures like universal background checks.
"We need to look at the full range of mental health issues, from early detection and treatment, to civil commitment laws, to privacy laws that needlessly prevent mental health records from being included" in the background check system, he said.
The NRA surveyed its members this month and found 86.4 percent of them believe that "strengthening our laws regarding mental health records to keep all firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill" would be the most effective way to prevent mass murders.
To gun-control advocates, these arguments smack of changing the subject.
"It is a political strategy to distract," said Richard Aborn, the president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. "It would be as foolhardy as saying, 'Well, if we just ban assault weapons, we solve the gun violence problem,' as to say, 'If we just solve the mental health issue, we solve the gun violence problem.'"
Mental health professionals say there's no reliable way to predict violence unless patients declare their intentions to hurt themselves or others.
"It is virtually impossible to identify who among the mentally ill are likely to be violent," Columbia University's Hoge said. "To have a policy that is based on identifying individuals who are likely to become violent is a failed policy from the beginning."
Federal law already prohibits gun ownership by some people with mental illnesses. Under statutes dating to 1968, people who have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions or subject to legal sanctions related to mental health conditions aren't permitted to possess firearms.
But the federal database for gun-sales background checks is missing millions of records regarding buyers' mental health histories, largely because states aren't submitting the appropriate information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mayors Against Illegal Guns reported in 2011.
The definition of who should be prohibited from obtaining firearms is flawed, so it limits people who don't pose a threat while at the same time allowing potentially dangerous people to get guns, said Ladd Everitt, the director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
"The problem with mental health and guns is that we haven't updated that standard since 1968 and the standard is arbitrary, nondescript and totally unfair," Everitt said. "I don't think it's stopping many people at all."
Factors such as previous acts of violence or the combination of mental illness and substance abuse may be more predictive of future violence, and the prohibitions against gun ownership could be broadened to reflect that fact, Everitt said.
As part of Obama's overall strategy, he ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to make recommendations for altering the current restrictions on firearms ownership "to ensure dangerous people aren't slipping through the cracks," the White House's summary of the president's plan says.
Wintemute, the University of California expert, said if policymakers hope to actually reduce gun violence, they must be willing to deprive larger numbers of people of the right to own firearms, despite the limitations of forecasting individual threats.
"Are we, in those instances at least, willing to say this person whose individual risk cannot be told with certainty is a member of a group of people that, as a group, are reliably at higher risk than other people?" he said. "That's as good as the science can get."
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
MAKE NO MISTAKE WE WELCOME INCREASED FUNDING FOR MENTAL HEALTH.....IT IS A CRIME IN AND OF ITSELF THAT WE CARE SO LITTLE FOR PEOPLE WITH THESE ISSUES. WE WILL TAKE THE FUNDING AND DEMAND THAT CIVIL RIGHTS FOR PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES NOT BE TRAMPLED!
A RECORD OF INVOLUNTARY COMMITMENT CAN RUIN A PERSON'S LIFE AND IT CAN BE ABUSED AS IT NOW STANDS. DO NOT MAKE IT EASIER TO COMMIT......MAKE IT EASIER TO ACCESS CARE!!!
Focus on Mental Health Laws to Curb Violence Is Unfair, Some Say By ERICA GOODE and JACK HEALY Published: January 31, 2013 New York Times
Enlarge This Image Matthew Staver for The New York Times Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado, a Democrat, has proposed a broad overhaul of the state’s mental health system.
Legislation to revise existing mental health laws is under consideration in at least a half-dozen states, including Colorado, Oregon and Ohio. A New York bill requiring mental health practitioners to warn the authorities about potentially dangerous patients was signed into law on Jan. 15. In Washington, President Obama has ordered “a national dialogue” on mental health, and a variety of bills addressing mental health issues are percolating on Capitol Hill.
But critics say that this focus unfairly singles out people with serious mental illness, who studies indicate are involved in only about 4 percent of violent crimes and are 11 or more times as likely than the general population to be the victims of violent crime.
And many proposals — they include strengthening mental health services, lowering the threshold for involuntary commitment and increasing requirements for reporting worrisome patients to the authorities — are rushed in execution and unlikely to repair a broken mental health system, some experts say.
“Good intentions without thought make for bad laws, and I think we have a risk of that,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego, who has studied rampage killers.
Moreover, the push for additional mental health laws is often driven by political expediency, some critics say. Mental health proposals draw support from both Democrats and Republicans, in part because, unlike bans on semiautomatic weapons or high-capacity magazines — like the one proposed in the Senate last week — they do not involve confrontation with gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association.
“The N.R.A. is far more formidable as a political foe than the advocacy groups for the mentally ill,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University and president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association.
Indeed, the N.R.A. itself, in response to the massacre in Newtown, argued that mental illness, and not the guns themselves, was at the root of recent shooting sprees. The group called for a national registry of people with mental illness — an alternative that legal experts agree would raise at least as many constitutional alarms as the banning of gun ownership.
For mental health groups, the proposals under consideration are tantalizing: By increasing services for those with mental illness, they raise the possibility of restoring some of the billions of dollars cut from mental health programs in recent years as budgets tightened in the financial downturn. The measures also hold out hope for improvement of a mental health system that many experts say is fragmented and drastically inadequate. And some proposals — those to revise commitment laws, for example — have the support of some mental health organizations.
But some mental health and legal experts say that politicians’ efforts might be better spent making the process of involuntary psychiatric commitment — and the criteria for restricting firearms access once someone has been forcibly committed — consistent from state to state. And some proposals have caused concern, raising questions about doctor-patient confidentiality, the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities and the integrity of clinical judgment.
Especially troublesome to some mental health advocates are provisions like New York’s, which expand the duty of practitioners to report worrisome patients — a model likely to be emulated by other states. New York’s law, part of a comprehensive package to address gun violence, requires reporting to the local authorities any patient “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.” Law enforcement officials would then be authorized to confiscate any firearm owned by such a patient.
John Monahan, a psychologist and professor of law at the University of Virginia, said that such laws are often superfluous.
Although many mental health practitioners mistakenly believe that federal laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act forbid them to disclose information about patients, such statutes already include exceptions that permit clinicians to give information to the authorities when a patient presents a threat to others, Dr. Monahan said.
Most states also have laws requiring mental health professionals to notify the authorities and any intended victim when a patient makes a direct threat.
New York’s provision, Dr. Monahan said, differs from virtually every other state’s laws in allowing guns to be taken not only from those committed against their will but also from patients who enter treatment voluntarily.
“The devil is in the details,” he said of New York’s new law. “The two fears are that people will be deterred from seeking treatment that they need or that, once they are in treatment, they will clam up and not talk about violence.”
Most mental health experts agree that the link between mental illness and violence is not imaginary. Studies suggest that people with an untreated severe mental illness are more likely to be violent, especially when drug or alcohol abuse is involved. And many rampage killers have some type of serious mental disorder: James E. Holmes, accused of opening fire in a movie theater in Colorado in July, was seeing a psychiatrist who became alarmed about his behavior; Jared L. Loughner, who killed 6 people and injured 13 others in Arizona, including former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was severely mentally ill.
But such killings account for only a tiny fraction of gun homicides in the United States, mental health experts point out. Besides the research indicating that little violent crime can be linked to perpetrators who are mentally ill, studies show that those crimes are far more likely to involve battery — punching another person, for example — than weapons, which account for only 2 percent of violent crimes committed by the mentally ill.
Because of this, some criminal justice experts say it makes more sense to pass laws addressing behavior, rather than a diagnosis of mental illness. In Indiana, for example, firearms can be confiscated from people deemed a potential threat, whether or not they have a mental illness.
Proposals in a number of states seek to redefine the threshold for involuntary commitment to psychiatric treatment. But in doing so, they have reignited a longstanding debate about the role of forced treatment.
In Ohio, lawmakers are expected to consider a proposal to increase access to outpatient commitment instead of hospitalization, while also doing away with language requiring people with mental illness to show a “grave and imminent risk to substantial rights” of themselves or others before they can be committed.
In Colorado, where legislators are undertaking a broad overhaul of the state’s mental health system proposed by Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, the proposal also includes changing the criteria for involuntary commitment.
Under the state’s current laws, caregivers can place patients on 72-hour mental health holds only if they are believed to pose an “imminent danger” to themselves or others. The governor’s plan would allow caregivers to commit people if they believe there is a “substantial probability” of harm. Virginia and some other states already have standards based on “substantial probability.”
But some mental health advocates are wary about lowering the threshold. “The evidence that we have tells us that that’s not an appropriate solution, it’s not an effective solution to this problem,” said Jennifer Mathis, deputy legal director at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, an advocacy group for people with psychiatric disabilities.
But Cheryl Miller — whose 21-year-old son, Kyle, was shot by the police last June after he pointed a toy gun at them — believes that a revised law might have saved her child.
Two weeks before Kyle was killed she took him to an emergency mental health clinic to get him hospitalized. But the staff refused to commit him.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to take him home; he needs to go to the hospital,’ ” Ms. Miller said. “They didn’t think so. It goes back to, was he an imminent danger to himself? And it was ‘No.’ ”