School & Campus Security
3:57 pm
Sun March 31, 2013

Mental Health & Violence

The debate over gun control, school safety, and overall quality of life in the shadow of violence has waned somewhat, but when another violent incident occurs on the world stage, the question that will re-emerge is: "What are we going to do?"  

So to help prevent another Virginia Tech or Newtown massacre, the Governor's Task Force on School and Campus Security is again tackling the related challenges.  The Mental Health Working Group is slowly rolling out ideas that the members believe will address some overlooked issues.
 
Many complex factors arise when evaluating and treating mental illness.  What's a health-provider’s responsibility to warn authorities when a patient is potentially violent?  How soon can a person be committed once they’re considered dangerous?  Who has the authority to make that call?  These are some of the questions the group is addressing.

The problems are systemic and complicated—says the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Commissioner, James Stewart.  He says they've evaluated the length of detention for psychiatric, drug, or alcohol problems:
 
"Currently there is no requirement that an individual remain in the hospital for 24 hours and Virginia has one of the shortest temporary detention periods nationwide," says Stewart.
 
The group has also examined the effectiveness of increasing penalties for possessing firearms while ineligible for mental health reasons, and looked for solutions for those who lack treatment access or funding. They're also searching for more effective detection methods when a child exhibits behavioral problems. And all of this must translate to making changes in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Tommie McNeil reports from Richmond.