The shooting rampage that left six dead Tuesday in Skagit County, Wa., is the latest tragic incident involving a person with apparent mental illness who didn’t get treatment in time to prevent violence, says the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Citing a series of similar cases, the newspaper said that in each, a person with severe, untreated mental illness has been charged or convicted in the killing. In each case, family members or others tried to intervene to get the suspect help before he committed a horrific crime but were stopped by Washington’s strict commitment laws and overburdened, ineffective mental health care system.
Isaac Zamora, 28, who was arrested after the shooting spree this week, may fit that same profile. Said his mother: “The laws are insane. He needed to be in a facility.” A Post-Intelligencer analysis found the state is spending $1.8 billion on mental illness. Most is spent in courtrooms, squad cars, jail cells, homeless shelters, and emergency rooms, not on prevention or long-term treatment. The biggest price taxpayers pay for mental illness in this state is not the cost of treatment — it’s the cost, and consequences, of failure to treat. Of the taxpayer dollars spent on people with severe mental illness each year in the state, about seven of every $10 go to services that don’t directly address underlying sickness.