Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A horrific ending

A few weeks ago a homeless man in Fairfax County, Virginia was shot and killed by police officers after he lunged at them with a knife. As the public railed against the officer for using lethal force, one blog comment added a bit of perspective.

However, this incident just highlights how poorly we treat the mentally ill in this country. This homeless man was clearly not of a sound mind. If he were cognizant of reality, he would not have been jabbing anyone, much less a cop, with a knife, totally at random. This man (and literally thousands of more like him) should be in hospitals, receiving treatment.

Yet, because over 70% of all state mental facilities were closed in the late 70’s to early 90’s, we have no place to house these broken people. Many end up in jail. Many more end up on the street. Far too many end up dead.

We cried at the last spring's tragedy at Virginia Tech. We point fingers at ineffective police reactions. Yet, we don’t want to do anything to fix our mental health situation.

If we don’t push for change, what happened at the Rose Hill Shopping Center on Friday will become more common than rare.

There’s no doubt this story had a horrific ending. Rather than be horrified by the police perhaps the horror should be pointed at the mental health system.

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