National Review has a fine editorial on the Tucson massacre and mental health:
The tragic irony is that Arizona boasts some of the strongest [involuntary commitment] laws in America. Had Jared Lee Loughner been referred to mental-health professionals, there is a chance that his bloody rampage could have been prevented. Think of all the people and institutions — his parents, his neighbors, his fellow Pima Community College (PCC) students, PCC administrators, the campus police, the Pima County Sheriff’s Office — who witnessed signs of his psychosis but apparently failed to notify the relevant officials. A simple court petition could have saved six lives.
On the other hand, as TAC founder Dr. Fuller Torrey has noted, Arizona’s public mental-health services are actually quite poor. The system is woefully — indeed, frighteningly — ill-equipped to manage the state’s psychiatric population. So even if Loughner had been referred to the proper channels, he might not have received treatment in time to stop his deadly outburst.
But question: why are Arizona’s mental health services so poor? The short answer: money.
To fill a $1 billion hole in its 2011 budget, Arizona slashed this year’s budget for mental health services by $36 million — a 37 percent cut. As a result, advocates say 3,800 people who do not qualify for Medicaid are at risk of losing services such as counseling and employment preparation. In addition, more than 12,000 adults and 2,000 children will no longer receive the name-brand medications they take to keep their illnesses in check. Other services such as supportive housing and transportation to doctor’s appointments also will be eliminated.
Arizona has been hit especially hard by the state fiscal meltdown of 2008-2010. But even if recovery accelerates, the problem will remain: how to pay for the government even conservatives want? Yes, much of the money can be found by reducing the government conservatives do not want. But I doubt all of it. The challenge to raise additional revenues in ways that do not burden work, saving and investment will beckon as one of the great challenges of the next decade for Republicans as well as Democrats.