This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
In the aftermath of the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., most of the focus has been on guns – and how easy it is for disturbed individuals to obtain them. But that tragedy – as well as earlier mass killings – have also shone a light on weaknesses in mental health treatment in the United States.
In the South Sound, high-profile tragedies in the past few months have revealed the difficulties in getting help for troubled family members: the murder of Rob Meline of Tacoma, allegedly by his mentally ill son, as well as the shooting incident in a store near Wauna. A woman whose family had tried to get mental health treatment for her has been charged with killing David Long and injuring two other men.
Too often, mental illness in this country is something that is “treated” behind bars rather than in therapeutic settings. A 2006 Department of Justice study found that 64 percent of jail inmates and 56 percent of state prison inmates have mental health issues. Mentally ill inmates cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $9 billion a year.
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