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Murder, Ian Stawicki, and House Bill 3076 June 21, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Involuntary Committment.
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June 21, 2012

Editor, The Seattle Times

Some people blame the City of Seattle for the recent murder of five unsuspecting people by Ian Stawicki.  I blame the taxpayers of Washington and the government.

The problem, in a nutshell, is with the mental health system, which was brought on by the State’s refusal to fund a bill that would have had Stawicki involuntarily committed.  At the point he was diagnosed as mentally ill (because of the involuntary commitment), he would have been denied the ability to purchase guns as well as been started on a medical treatment for his disorder.  Since he was never diagnosed as mentally ill (because House Bill 3076 was never funded), he was not prohibited from possessing a firearm.  But because of a lack of funding (and a lack of mental hospital beds), Ian was allowed to roam free, wreaking his havoc among the people in Seattle.

Currently, as the law reads, a person can be involuntarily committed only when a third party, the Designated Mental Health Professional, does an independent assessment of a person who is thought to be an imminent danger to himself or others.  This changed with House Bill 3076.  In that bill, the DMHP could rely on testimony from friends or family members of those who clearly have a mental illness.  As it stands now, input cannot be given by family members or friends of a suspected mentally ill person.  But House Bill 3076 changes all of that.  With the new bill, however, come costs.  The big problem with passing and funding House Bill 3076 is that there aren’t enough hospital beds to take those people who would have been involuntarily committed because of testimony of friends and/or loved ones.  So the State acknowledges the need for such a place, but declines to do anything about it.

So when there is a lot of handwringing and rhetoric about the state of the mental health laws, I have little or no sympathy for those doing their handwringing.  NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness, a grassroots organization for those suffering from mental illness and their friends and loved ones) has testified before Congress at the need for such facilities.  But we are always told it is too expensive to fund.  This is what happens when needs are ignored.  There will be more Ians because of this situation.

Until Congress and the State of Washington take steps to build hospital beds for those people like Ian to go get help, there will be more cases of mental illness-sparked murders.  So if we are truly concerned about people like Ian, who clearly have an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness, and his victims, nothing will change.

People on the radio and tv have wrung their hands about people like Ian getting access to firearms.  But until House Bill 3076 is funded, there will be no diagnosis of mental illness, and there will be continued access to guns by those with no business owning one.

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