Jared Lee Loughner didn't fall through the cracks, nor did the mental health system “fail” him in the years before Jan. 8, when he fatally shot six people and wounded 13 others, says Washington Post associate editor Steve Luxenberg. The mental health system performed as we have designed it over the past 40 years, ever since courts and legislatures adopted “a danger to themselves or others” as the standard for taking action against those showing signs of a mental illness that might lead to violence, Luxenberg writes.
In Loughner's case, some people did see danger, and some people did act. The patchwork of laws that vary by state tolerates the odd, the strange, even the disruptive ravings of a Jared Loughner. This was a direct reaction to the days when behaving oddly or strangely often meant a long-term stay in an insane asylum of the kind that once dominated the mental health system. Today's system has yet to figure out the best way to deal with the tiny fraction among us who have a severe mental disorder and an apparent capacity for violence, Luxenberg says.