Thursday, June 14, 2007

Report to the President- Commitment laws & practices

After the tragedies at Virginia Tech, President Bush sent three of his most important advisors in search of ways to help prevent such horrific events in the future. Health Secretary Michael Leavitt, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met with educators, mental health experts, and law enforcement leaders in a dozen states. Yesterday they issued their report to the President.

One of the key findings: “It is critical to get people with mental illness the services they need.” That goal is obvious to set and easy to state but momentously difficult to achieve, which the report’s authors – to their credit – recognize. They advise states to:

“Review emergency services and commitment laws to ensure the standards are clear, appropriate, and strike the proper balance among liberty, safety for the individual and the community, and appropriate treatment.”

As the standard for intervention in Virginia is “imminent danger” and the focus of the report is prevention of violent incidents, the target of this instruction is clear – the adoption of reformed treatment laws.

Additionally, the Department Secretaries and Attorney General warn that interventions must not only be made more available, but also followed through on. They recommend to the states that “Where a legal ruling mandates a course of treatment, make sure that systems are in place to ensure thorough follow-up.”

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