Shootings prompt Iowa lawmakers to consider mental health services

Sen. Hogg: "It might be something we need to re-visit."

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Prompted by last year's mass shootings, state lawmakers will consider improving availability of mental health services when the Legislature convenes in two weeks.

"I personally have some interest in looking at it, " said state Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. "It might be something we need to re-visit."

The state is already reorganizing the delivery of services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, and high-profile incidents across the country over the past year may prompt a response by lawmakers, said Hogg.

One idea is to ease involuntary commitment for psychiatric care when family members are concerned someone may be a threat to themselves or to the public.

"The idea that you might strengthen our civil commitments system, there’s no question that’s something I’d like to have my committee address," said Hogg. He'll be chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 14.

Hogg has scheduled a public meeting Jan. 11 to discuss restoring mental health services lost to budget-cutting over the past several years. The meeting will be at noon at Westdale Public Library.

"After Sandy Hook I wanted to make sure we’re doing it," said Hogg. "The clear opportunity for the Legislature in 2013 is to adequately fund mental health, and make sure we have the services."

Mental illness was a factor in at least two recent shooting deaths in Iowa.

In April 2011,Keokuk County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Stein was killed by a man whose family had attempted to have him committed for treatment of his mental illness. Stein's killer was shot and killed by members of a State Patrol tactical unit.

In June 2010, legendary Applington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas was shot to death by a former student with a history of mental illness. The student, Mark Becker, had been released from a Waterloo hospital after a psychiatric evaluation days before the shooting. The coach's family lobbed lawmakers to pass the Ed Thomas Bill requiring police notification when a psychiatric patient is released with pending criminal charges.


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