Arizona makes it much easier than many other states to force a mentally disturbed person to get psychiatric help, even without evidence of dangerous behavior, says the Arizona Daily Star. A provision in state law, little known outside the law enforcement and mental-health systems, gives any adult the right to petition the court for a psychiatric evaluation and, if needed, court-ordered care for someone “persistently and acutely disabled” by symptoms of mental illness but unwilling to seek or follow medical advice.
Mass-shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner of Tucson – who shouted at his college teachers, rambled incoherently to campus police, and posted delusional tirades on the Internet – appears to fit the criteria for such a court-ordered evaluation, said Charles “Chick” Arnold, an expert on mental health and the law. Yet no one sought such an intervention, and no evidence has emerged that Loughner received care of any kind. Arnold, a Phoenix attorney, believes Pima Community College officials dropped the ball by not taking steps to initiate a court-ordered evaluation of Loughner, even when he became such a discipline problem they suspended him from campus last fall. Loughner instead received a letter telling him not to come back until he'd been assessed by a mental health professional. He responded by dropping out, a few months before he's accused of going on a shooting spree that targeted U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killing six people and wounding 13. Alice Callison, a lawyer for the college, said, “I think the college responded in a very reasonable fashion.” Loughner “had not committed any crime. He was not a danger to self or others. He didn't seem to be in an acute crisis.”