Unlike many states – where little can be done to force an unstable person into treatment until he or she becomes violent and poses a danger to themself or others – any person in Arizona can ask a court for a psychiatric evaluation solely because a person appears to be mentally ill and doesn’t know it. That doesn’t appear to have happened in the case of Jared Loughner, accused of shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ), says the Washington Post.
“When people appear mentally ill or show some instability, how do you get them to [mental health] resources if the system doesn’t know those people are out there?” said Neal Cash of Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, which provides mental health services. “Our crisis line is manned 24/7. Anyone concerned about his behavior could have called at any time.” The Tucson community college that expelled Loughner for disruptive behavior “dropped the ball,” said E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist who founded the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center. “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.’ “