Arizona's Surprisingly Good Mental Health Laws Might Have Prevented Tragedy

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Charles "Chick" Arnold
Arizona's mental health laws are among the best in the country and might have been used to get Jared Loughner treatment if applied properly, says Charles "Chick" Arnold, the state's leading expert in mental health law.

"While our system sucks, our statutes are the best in the country," says Arnold -- Arizona's godfather of mental health law and plaintiff in the decades-old funding case Arnold v. Sarn.

Arnold is quick to explain that he doesn't have all the facts about Loughner. But given what is known, he says there's a chance that Pima Community College staff could have at least asked for help.

The lawyer explains that in most states, simple concern for a person's mental health is not enough to ask authorities for an involuntary evaluation.

But in Arizona it is.

The state is among only three or four that allows -- along with "danger to self," "danger to others," and "grave disability" -- a category for the "persistently and acutely disabled."

College authorities might have least argued for that category, Arnold says. "They could have knocked over a domino . . . that might have gotten him treatment."

Threats or reports of disturbing behavior -- like that reported to have led PCC officials to ask Loughner to not come back to school -- are enough to make an "application for an involuntary evaluation," Arnold says.

That would have led to an involuntary visit to a psychiatric emergency room and, depending on that evaluation, a 72-hour evaluation. Those doctors would then file a "petition for treatment" that gets a patient a lawyer and a hearing before a judge.

That hearing, Arnold says, could result in a judge filing the paperwork that would have been "the impediment to him getting a gun."

"But none of that happened," he concludes. "I can't tell yet whether somebody should have done something that they didn't do."




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14 comments
3Worried
3Worried

I have a 28 year old nephew who hung himself about 4 years ago. the rope broke and he was found unconscious by a cleaning lady. Since then he has tried shooting himself and probably a few other ways I do not know about. he tried suicide by cop. Then he tried alcohol and driving rolled the car went to jail. He got off alcohol but has now turned to heroin. His parents do not have the strength to have him petitioned( I was told that was the term. I do not really know). I was also told by a mental health facility you do not have to be the parent to petition someone. I do have the strength to do it but do not know where to start.

karenguzman32
karenguzman32

My husband went into a mental has by choice and has been in over a week... they are over medicating him and his doctor wont listen... after 4days he got sick and was sent to the hospital... im very angry and want him out... i had read that they are only to keep him 120 hours.... i have been on the phone 2 days trying to get him home....anyone know what i can do to get him home....im worried cus they put him back on the med tjey promised to take him off.... please any help will be greatly appreciated

Natalie
Natalie

 Within the past 3 years schizophrenia has taken over my brothers life. He too is homeless & walks the streets here in Lake Havasu. He too is harassed by officers and thrown to the ground for going into the bowling (where is has been told he is not welcome) and asking for water.In fact, Daniel my brother is not welcome anywhere. He was always a good boy growing up & very smart. He graduated here in Lake Havasu in 2004 with a 4.0 gpa. He used to watch my kids and pick them up from school. They remember Uncle Dan and how he used to be and see how he is now. MMH (Mohave Mental Health) has been anything but help in this situation, and there are no other facilities to turn to. I've gone down to MMH and pled with them to title 36 him and try and get him some type of help, after many promises, they backed out and said that would be violating his rights. I've talked to the doctors in the E.R. and tried to get their help, after all they were the ones who initially sent him for help and this is when he was no where near as bad as he is now. It makes no sense to me. I've gone as far as asking the police for help, and still nothing. My brother is left lost in his own head and twisting in the wind. There has to be something that can be done for him, he's a person too. So I'm currently at a stand still, but am open for suggestions. He was not always this way...I can show you the Daniel he used to be. My brother is 24 yrs old and walks McCulloch, I'm sure many of you see him regularly, I on the other hand refuse to drive on McCulloch because I can't handle seeing him this way. I NEED HELP so I can help him, anyone that can offer any type of direction I can take would be greatly appreciated. I don't know how folks at the bowling alley can be so cruel as to turn him down for water...you all know how hot it is out there. I mean they have a day once a week for mental retards, yet they discriminate against him. Why? Because he is not a clean cut schizophrenic? It's wrong, pure and simple. Daniel used to bowl on a league when he was little at the very bowling alley. He sleeps under the bridge by the jewelry store there on McCulloch. He deserves a better life then this. Thank you for listening!  Arizona is a joke and they would rather not be bothered then have to really do their job.  Where do we turn to get him help?????

Charitee Stone
Charitee Stone

This guys need his own committment!!! My husband agreed to go into a "hospital facility" last night. Its an hour away mind you! He set in their lobby from 10:00pm until 4:00 am waiting for a bed that was supposed to already be waiting for him. Then thay woke him at 7 am. He has been taking a perscription from his doc for chantax to quit smoking and has had a few side affects. One of which was a MENTIOn of sucidal thoughts. Now even though he wants to come home and seek treatmentment, they said he can't leave AMA! He volunteered to go to this place. Unknowing they were going to take EVERYTHING from him! Plus they have him on the chemical dependancy floor!!! Someone please help if you can.

rosalia136
rosalia136

Mr. Charles Arnold well let's see, good article but Mr. Arnold no longer advocates and mentally ill unless you have the money for large retainer. Why did he and others allow the Arnold versus Sarn Lawsuit be put aside so the state of Arizona no longer has to provide mental health services. This was a great win for Magellan health services but not for Arizona. As for that 72 hour evaluation that's not what is happening. Doctors are being told that after 24 to 48 hours they will discharge a patient whether they are stable or not.as for being a danger to self or others that also is not happening. People with severe mental illness who are experiencing psychosis, extreme paranoia, hallucinations hearing voices and getting no medications are being turned away. Mr. Charles Arnold now that you belong to a big law firm you have turned your back on the most vulnerable. Maybe you can rethink your priorities and go back and help those who cannot help them selves

Mary Lou Brncik
Mary Lou Brncik

Interesting article. I was wondering why Arizona has the second highest rate of incarceration of those with mental illness in the nation. Across the nation those with mental illness are three times more likely to be incarcerated in our jails or prisons than to be in a psychiatric treatment facility. InArizona you are ten times more likey to be incarcerated then in treatment. Although I know Attorney Chick Arnold is a true expert in our mental health system I have a hard time understanding what goes wrong between our "best laws in the country" and our mentally ill filling our prisons.

understanding what goes wrong between our best laws in the country and our mentally ill landing in our prisons

Kathy Monkman
Kathy Monkman

I have to beg to differ here being the sister of a schizophrenic man who lived in AZ for 2 years several years ago and had HORRIBLE TIME getting him serviced. Including me taking him to the County hospital psych unit in an acute episode with him flagging down cars taunting them to run him over in the middle of the night only to be told he wasn't sick enough for admission (acutely hallucinating, aggressively conversing with his voices, taunting cars to hit him wasn't sick enough in this State). He's gotten MUCH better mental health care in the midwest since leaving here and the one and only reason we don't have him near me, his only sibling, is the fact that the services here in AZ are so hideously lacking. It's absolutely devastating being a family member of someone acutely/chronically mentally ill in this State. You just have nearly zero resources, huge waiting lists for housing. It's pathetic.

front lines
front lines

a 72-hour evaluation. Those doctors would then file a "petition for treatment" that gets a patient a lawyer and a hearing before a judge. Is Arnold crazy also? Take someone in for a 72hr evaluation and they are back on the streets in hours.

natalie
natalie

Kathy, I completely relate to your story.  I live here in Lake Havasu City AZ. and right after this shooting happened, my brother also schizophrenic went to Albertson's and threatened the girls that work there.  He asked them if they knew what a rugger was and told them he would be back to shoot them all.  Hoping this would be what got him sent back for treatment...but I was wrong.  The police came and let him go because they know he's 51/50.  What if he were to come back and shoot the place up?  When will someone take this seriously...I'm out of answers.  My story is above.  Thanks for listening!

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