Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Newton, Connecticut; How about disease control instead of gun control?
As soon as I heard the shocking news from Newtown, Connecticut, many of my thoughts turned to my great-nephew, Kai (Kaien) This beautiful child, whom I love dearly, is just a few years younger than the 20 victims in this mass killing. As the story unfolded from Sandy Hook elementary School, I, like many others, became overwhelmed with empathy for the parents that had sent their kids off to school that morning; and would now, instead of planning a celebration of Christmas, began the process of planning their funeral's. No one can understand their grief. I noticed many of my friends who have young children, finding comfort by hugging them and being grateful for what they have.
Since the victims were so young, this will have a lasting impact on psych of this country and will command calls for fundamental change. Sadly, the changes called for will be the ones that are politically expedient not ones that will create a significant transformation. If history is any indication, and it usually is, after several months of political posturing and exploitation, little meaningful changes will result from this atrocity.
One common thread that is prevalent about the perpetrator of this carnage, 20 year old Adam Lanza, is that he was mentally unstable. Though all the facts are not currently known, it stands to reason that he had some mental health issues as clear minded people simply do not snap and go on mass killing sprees. Though it is still speculation, it is being reported that the mother of this young man, was in the process of having him committed for psychiatric treatment. Certainly all the hallmarks of a disorder were there, and in the coming months, we will get a better grasp of what was occurring in his life that led to this outcome.
However, what needs to be examined is the current mental health system in Connecticut. This will allow us a clearer picture of what families face in acquiring treatment and proper care for their loved ones.
As we delve into Connecticut's mental health system, some particularly ominous signs of an outdated and discriminatory structure emerge. This is not saying that this position directly caused this massacre, but again, it illuminates the many problems with the lack of readily available treatment programs that have contributed to many other tragedies.
According to the Mental Illness Policy. Org, Connecticut is one of only six states that do not incorporate the court and mental health system with regards to civil commitment and compulsory treatment. Specifically, it refuses to allow the courts to mandate that mentally ill individuals, who have a history of violence, must stay in treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Since these individuals will eventually be released into society, this contributes to higher recidivism rates at a cost to the taxpayer. Additionally, it handcuffs the capacity for family members to compel their delusional loved ones into treatment. Once again, this archaic thinking is in dire need of updating.
Additionally, this report spotlighted that Connecticut is 850 mental health beds short of the minimum required to provide adequate treatment for its citizens. This in spite of the knowledge that the average household income in that state of $69,243, is over 30% higher than the rest of the country. It is shocking that the political leaders in that state do not realize that the cost of not treating people, means higher incarceration rates, which is ultimately where individuals will receive treatment. Again, this added burden is borne by the taxpayers.
One indicator of a troubling system is the prevalence of depression, compared with the suicide rate. Though no one has examined this since this massacre, it invites exploration. Though Connecticut ranks 38th in the volume of Clinical Depression, shockingly, it has the 8th highest suicide rate. With the distance between these two figures, it is as if both are outliers of each other, rather than running more parallel. This is another indicator of a system in need of substantial changes as it is clear that there is inadequate treatment. However, the Democratically controlled legislature has not shown the courage to address these shortcomings.
As an example, earlier this year, the Legislature, proposed to reform the civil commitment laws and ultimately change the "assisted outpatient treatment" program. This would allow the courts and family members the latitude needed to drive treatment and make civil commitments much easier. This time, the ultra liberal organization, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), became a powerful roadblock to this legislation, describing it as a violation of one's freedoms. This group believes that individuals have a right to walk around in a delusional state, identical to the way recent mass killers have done. For some unexplained reason, they refuse to understand that this illness damages the ability for one to make rational decisions, and the afflicted does not even realize that they are sick! With that opposition, the needed updates were never implemented, and the bill expired.
During the last seven years, we have witnessed horrific attacks in Red Lake Minnesota, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech, Tucson Arizona, Aurora Colorado, and now Newton Connecticut. Collectively, ninety people were murdered in these shootings, and dozens more wounded. In each case, we hear calls for political leaders to implement solutions to prevent these tragedies. Instead, we find only pointing fingers of blame and exploitation the resulting actions. Once the story gets stale in the minds of the citizenry; the politicians and media transfer on to other stories, with no significant change occurring.
It is not only these high profile tragedies that we witness and this area was not immune to the failures of the system. Locally, two police officers, Jason West of Avon, and James Kerstetter of Elyria were gunned by mentally ill individuals who could be poster children for the overburdened mental health system. Add to these alarming statistics is that we have recently witnessed suicides in Vermillion, Avon Lake, Wakeman, Elyria, Medina and Amherst, to name a few. Many were teenagers, and this again, is ample evidence of a system falling under the consequence of severe budget cuts.
After the killings in Tucson, the Tea Party and Sarah Palin became the media's convenient scapegoats. In fact, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown was one of many that berated groups such as these for inciting violence! In time, as the facts became known, the perpetrator of that act, Jared Lee Loughner, was found to be mentally ill with no political agenda. He was one that the ACLU believed had a right to walk around in a psychotic state. With that, he became a graduate of the failed mental health system with Senator Brown a willing witness of its destruction.
In the past year, I have contacted Senator Brown's office several times to find out what he has done to deal with correcting these failing underfunded programs, and open a dialogue on mental illness. The answer I received on each occasion is that they would contact me in two weeks. To date, his staff has not responded in any way, and with his recent re-election, it is unlikely they ever will.
With this tragedy in Connecticut, the national spotlight is focusing on an organization that many believe is at fault, the National Riflemen's Association (NRA). Now groups are saying it is guns, and that the NRA advocates violence. In fact, there is a left wing organization, CREDO Mobile that marched on the NRA office in Washington to draw attention to this very issue. It must be pointed out that if these misguided individuals want to witness violence being advocated, they should read the lyrics to many rap songs, or view many violent movies coming out of Hollywood. However, that falls outside the realm of their political motives.
To draw a comparison, on the same day of this horrific killing spree, Chicago, which boasts one of the nation's toughest gun control laws, reported ten shootings, including four teenagers. In this calendar year alone, Chicago's homicide rate will likely top 500. Armed with this information, I think it may be more prudent for these marchers to rally in front of the homes of the drug dealers, and gang leaders in Chicago who are committing these atrocities. With that, they can demand that they disarm, and see what response they receive. It bears adding, like the perpetrators in all the other recent mass killings, none of the triggermen belonged to the NRA.
Michael Moore, a political exploiter chimed in with the most vile comments, "The NRA hates freedom. They don't want you to have the freedom to send your children to school and expect to come home alive." He forgets that NRA members are good hardworking, taxpaying, family members. Never fret, Michael Moore will create something that he will refer to as a documentary, twist facts, and make millions of dollars off this massacre. After which, he will rile against the capitalistic pigs who seem to concern themselves with nothing more than profiteering at the expense of others.
People are entitled to their views, and that is what makes this countries freedoms second to none. However, we spend time labeling people with empty comments, which hinders the nation's ability to develop solutions to complex problems. In the past, because of my advocacy for treatment and suicide prevention, I have been described as a left wing lunatic. At other times, as I spell out that guns are not the cause of tragedies, nor is the Tea Party to blame for any recent solar flare activity, I become known as a right wing fanatic.
After the murders in Tucson, there were calls for a "National Dialogue on Mental Illness," to find solutions to all the direct and indirect deaths, and to prevent them from reoccurring. I have not witnessed one member of the national media reminding the world of this and ask political leaders why this public debate never occurred. Perhaps, if we had this conversation, the leadership in Connecticut would have decided that it is time to bring their system from the 19th century thinking into the 21st!
The disgusting actions of the national media, their reluctance to connect these tragedies with mental health deficiencies, and the insults from idiots like Michael Moore do not bring prevention. They just cover up failures and deflect actions that may injure their political agenda. Because of that, real solutions will continue to elude us as more suicides and tragedies such as this one will repeat themselves.
So many people fail to understand, or choose not too, is that no one can legislate human behavior. What must be done is that we need to treat the disorders that control its target, which a sick mind. The only way to do that is to begin to renovate this nations laws on civil commitment, make treatment available, and for political leaders to stop making false scapegoats. In other words, let us begin that national dialogue! Are you listening Senator Brown?