MERIDIAN, Idaho -- As people continue to try to come to grips with the tragic shooting at a Connecticut Elementary school, more details are emerging about the suspected shooter.
Many mental health experts say Adam Lanza likely suffered from a mental illness, and say this tragedy brings to light major shortages in care and funding for mental health.
Our hearts and our prayers are with the families and the communities back in Connecticut, said Kathie Garrett, a former legislator and current chair of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Council.
Garrett says it's a possiblity that Lanza had a mental illness, but most don't know yet if he was ever diagnosed or treated. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says 1 in 17 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, and the huge majority are not capable of something like this.
We want to see more awareness so people understand people with mental illness are no more dangerous than the rest of the population, especially when they have availability to good mental health services, said Garrett.
But that access to mental health services can sometimes be tough to come by. NAMI says fewer than one-third of people with mental illness receive treatment. Garrett says that can be attributed to the stigma associated with mental illness, and also, recent cuts in funding.
Garrett says, since 2009, Idaho cut funding to its state mental health clinics by 22%. They restrict services to people who are only in crisis, or are there, because they were ordered by courts... We have a crisis in our mental health system.
Idaho ranks near the bottom in the nation for mental healthcare funding. Garrett tells us she understands budgeting and the tough economic times. But she believes getting that care to people who need it, when they need it, is worth the money.
We want to give people treatment as soon as possible, said Garrett. We want to see that happen. We don't want to see a tragedy like that happen in Idaho.
Idaho has also seen recently, what experts call, a very important step forward in mental health services. The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline went online last month. It's a great resource for anyone in crisis, or anyone looking for guidance on mental health services available to them. The number is 1-800-273-TALK.