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posted: 12/29/2012 5:00 AM

Post-shooting focus: Mental illness

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Post-shooting focus: mental illness

With the recent rash of shooting sprees, everyone's attention has immediately turned to gun control.

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Attempting to control violent, senseless killings by enacting more gun laws is like trying to prevent drunken driving by controlling the sale of cars. Anyone who makes detailed plans to gun down a group of defenseless strangers obviously has a mental illness. This should be our focus.

Across the United States, state public mental health budgets have been slashed at least $4.35 billion from 2009 to 2012, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. The Huffington Post writes, "29 states reported they've had to close more than 3,200 inpatient beds for mentally ill people over the last four years."

As an RN of 20 years, I have watched as people needing this vital care slip between the cracks of our social safety net and end up using the emergency department for their mental health care needs -- a place ill designed to assist in this matter. What's worse is many more end up in the penal system where they receive no appropriate treatment and each cost the taxpayers between $20,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on the state.

The mentally ill are treated as less-than-human by their more stable counterparts. There has always been a stigma associated with this illness and now the government has turned their backs on them and we are all, as a country, paying for that slight. Dozens of mass shootings have marred our countryside, causing untold grief and fear. When will we wake up and realize mental health care funding affects us all?

Tara Scharlau

Maple Park

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