By Rich Lowry
The Hendricks County Flyer
Mon Dec 24, 2012, 12:51 PM EST
Newtown is the latest locale in America to become synonymous with senseless slaughter. The shock and the horror are so intense, it almost guarantees that Congress will act.
There will inevitably be an enormous brouhaha around guns and ammunition, leading to nothing likely to prevent the next massacre. Democrats are talking about a renewed assault-weapon ban and a prohibition on high-capacity magazines. But Adam Lanza could have killed just as indiscriminately with any semiautomatic gun, and if he didn't have a high-capacity magazine, he could simply have reloaded with smaller magazines, something the Virginia Tech and Columbine killers managed to do.
If we are going to have a rush to action, it shouldn't be on guns. It should be on mental illness. It doesn't make for high political drama or emotional cable chatter, but getting treatment for more of the most seriously mentally ill might actually prevent future shootings. Even if it doesn't, it would improve the lives of sick and vulnerable people.
Adam Lanza's mother, Nancy, lived alone with him and, by all accounts, was utterly devoted to her youngest child. Then, one morning he shot her four times in the head. If Lanza was mentally ill, this would accord with the pattern. Parents are the most likely to be victims of the violence of their mentally ill children.
We may never know what the dynamic was in the Lanza home. For too many parents of the mentally ill, though, it goes something like this: Their child becomes withdrawn, delusional, and erratic. If they call the mental-health system, they are told to bring the child in for an appointment and the sick child won't go. If the parents call the cops, the cops show up and say the child doesn't appear to represent a threat to himself or others and they leave. If they take him to the hospital, he is quickly released back to the parents, even if he is admitted. The choice might become living with a deteriorating child increasingly out of his mind or forcing him out of the home and into the streets.
Yes, this is 21st-century America. Where we have better means to treat mental illness than ever before, but choose to let the insane people decide to get it or not. Where we supposedly de-institutionalized the mentally ill by closing down psychiatric hospitals, and then reinstitutionalized them behind bars. The number of psychiatric beds on a per capita basis is back at 1850 levels, and there are three times as many seriously mentally ill people in jail or prison than in hospitals, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center. Where we let sick people sleep on the streets. About a third of homeless men and two-thirds of homeless women are seriously mentally ill. Imagine the national outrage if people with Alzheimer's were permitted to wander around the streets uncared for. But, by some perverse logic, it's considered OK for schizophrenics.
The federal government can act on this travesty only at the margins. It is largely up to the states. They can make a real difference by stopping the further closure of public hospital psychiatric beds and making it easier to compel treatment. Civil-commitment laws that require imminent danger to self or others are too strict. As DJ Jaffe of Mental Illness Policy Org puts it, that standard doesn't prevent violence, it "requires" violence in order to get care to someone too irrational to realize that he needs it.
When they are treated, the seriously mentally ill aren't more violent than the general population. If untreated, though, they are. The evidence is in our ongoing roll call of horrors perpetrated by the deranged. We don't know yet if Adam Lanza was mentally ill, or if a better system would have helped him. We do know that somewhere out there a young man is about to get very sick. He could become the next Jared Loughner or James Holmes - unless someone gets him treatment.
(c) 2012 by King Features Syndicate
December 10, 2013
Indiana’s lopsided win in the Old Oaken Bucket game ended yet another disappointing season for those unfortunate enough to call themselves Hoosier Football fans. As a member of that tortured lot, the climactic victory over hapless, one-win Purdue offered little solace.
December 9, 2013
December 7, 2013
When I woke up Saturday morning, I gave a customary online scan of Friday’s sports, mainly for a recap of the Pacers’ home game against Milwaukee.
November 18, 2013
Most people recall where they were upon hearing significant news in their life, whether it was positive or negative. I remember where I was when I heard now-former Butler basketball coach Brad Stevens was going to the Boston Celtics.
November 12, 2013
Having gone to a football school in the heart of basketball country, I was never around soccer in my youth, and thus haven’t been a soccer guy in adulthood.
November 5, 2013
I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we've seen this before.
October 29, 2013
There have been a lot of big games played in Indianapolis, none bigger than the Colts' unforgettable win over New England in the AFC championship seven years ago.
While next Monday's visit from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos won't eclipse that monumental event, there is no doubt that the city has never and will never experience another night like No. 18's return.
October 17, 2013
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
After an anonymous donation the Worcester Catholic School will remain open. The 70-year-old school was going to close its doors in June.
December 12, 2013
© 2013 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. ·
CNHI Classified Advertising Network ·
CNHI News Service
Associated Press content © 2013. All rights reserved. AP content may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Our site is powered by Zope. Some parts of our site may require
you to download the Flash Player Plugin.
Terms and Conditions
Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN
8109 Kingston St., Suite 500