Arizona Shooter Should Have Gotten Mental Help, Experts Say

Tuesday, 11 Jan 2011 01:52 PM

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Anyone who felt threatened or concerned about the behavior of Arizona gunman Jared Loughner could have requested a psychiatric evaluation and possible confinement under the state’s expansive mental health laws. Such a request was never made, even though Loughner was banned from the campus of Pima Community College, The Washington Post reported.

Jared Loughner, Arizona, shooting, GiffordsMental health officials in Tucson and Pima County that would have dealt with any such referral said they had no contact with Loughner. "To the best of our knowledge, he was never and is currently not enrolled in our system," Neal Cash, president of the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, told the Post. Loughner, suspected in the shooting spree that killed six and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., could have sought private treatment that he would be unaware of, he said.

In most states, it is very difficult to get unstable people into treatment barring a violent act or clear evidence that they pose a threat to themselves or others.

In Arizona, any individual can petition the court if a person appears to be mentally ill, the Post said. Loughner’s behavior so alarmed college officials that campus police delivered a letter to his house suspending him from classes and followed it up with another stating he could not return to campus without an evaluation proving he was not a threat.

E. Fuller Torrey, a Washington area psychiatrist and expert on schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, told the Post, "In retrospect, they dropped the ball. At least they got him off campus, so they can say, 'We've discharged our responsibility, we're protecting our students.' I suppose they could argue, 'We don't have responsibility for the larger community.' "

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