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The tragedy in Connecticut has reopened a difficult debate over whether states should be allowed to involuntarily commit the mentally ill.
The trend over the decades has been to release mental health patients, with a number of court cases restricting involuntary commitment. Last week’s deadly rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School exposed cracks and inconsistencies within the nation’s mental health system. Many say that until those problems are fixed, it’s only a matter of time before another national nightmare unfolds.
“It’s a cultural and mental health problem and it’s something we need to address soon and seriously,” former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge told Fox News. “We need to balance individual rights with the needs of the community.”
Ironically, a Connecticut mental health bill calling for changes that could have taken someone like shooter Adam Lanza off the streets was defeated earlier this year in the state legislature. The bill would have allowed the state to commit someone if there was a reason to think that would prevent them from harming others.
Reports of Lanza’s mental health have varied. One source told FoxNews.com that Lanza may have snapped because his mother was trying, despite the difficulties, to commit him to a psychiatric facility.
A senior law enforcement official confirmed Lanza's anger at his mother over plans for "his future mental health treatment" is being looked at as a possible motive. Police said they had no evidence Lanza had been medicated when the killings occurred. But even if Lanza had a proven history of mental illness, having him forcibly committed would have been nearly impossible.