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Tucson Shooting - Mental Health Care could have prevented it

posted Mar 27, 2011, 9:50 AM by Matt Chamberlain   [ updated Mar 27, 2011, 10:03 AM ]
By Fred J. Martin Jr. - GWPNA Member

The fundamental issue in the Arizona shooting was that a pot-smoking, chronically mentally ill person went untreated, was expelled from an educational institution with a warning to get treatment as a prerequisite for return, yet was permitted to buy a gun.

This, unfortunately, could have happened in San Francisco or Berkeley, where the political climate is much different.

This tragic event should be a wake-up call for San Francisco which, under Mayor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Mitch Katz, was systematically eliminating acute-care facilities for severely mentally ill persons, who run afoul of the law and end up at San Francisco General Hospital.

Psych Emergency Services doctors at SFGH are largely left with grim choices: Return these individuals to the streets, to their families (if they have family), or to jail and often ultimately prison.

These delusional individuals, who self-medicate on street drugs and alcohol for lack of treatment, are a threat to the city as they slash tires, rob cars and homes, break and enter businesses and live in misery and filth.

There is a lesson here for our city, our state and the nation, if we heed it.

Fred J. Martin Jr. is a retired director of governmental relations for the Bank of America. He chaired the 2002 program on mental illness and public policy at UC Berkeley.

Note: Fred also published this article in the SF Chronicle on January 12, 2011 - Link