Monday, April 23, 2007

Media recognize flaws in treatment laws

More media on the Virginia Tech shooting is focusing on the need to improve state mental illness treatment laws.

An oped by Dr. Torrey in today’s New York Post notes:
The students and faculty at Virginia Tech correctly identified Cho as being very disturbed and potentially dangerous but that only resulted in a virtually universal refrain: "There was nothing we could do."

Newsday’s Jamie Talan writes:

The mental health system has long battled the vexing question about what to do with the small number of psychotic patients who are violent but who have yet to act on their thoughts. Mental health experts say only 5 percent of mentally ill patients with a history of psychosis are violent. That said, according to Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, president of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., there are about 4 million people in the United States at any given time suffering from psychosis. The majority, 95 percent, of these patients are not dangerous to themselves or others …

"Legally, in these cases, everyone's hands are tied," said Mary Zdanowicz, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center. The organization was formed in 1998 to attempt to help states rewrite their mental health laws. "There is a lot that needs to be changed. We know too much now about the risks of these illnesses when patients are not treated."

This indepth piece in the Richmond Times Dispatch captures the horror of the state not providing needed treatment:

"It's outrageous that a young man showing such symptoms to this dedicated teacher somehow never got the treatment that he so clearly needed," said Mary Zdanowicz, executive director of the Arlington-based Treatment Advocacy Center, a national advocacy group for the mentally ill.

And the San Francisco Chronicle covers the Virginia Tech shooting in terms of California’s AOT law, Laura’s Law, which California counties have access to but have not implemented.

"Being completely and absolutely overcome with illness -- walking around and thinking you're on Mars and that everyone is a Venusian -- is not enough to get someone into treatment. They have to be in physical danger at the time," said Jonathan Stanley, assistant director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national group based in Arlington, Va., that supports forced treatment.

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