Local News

Mental health system 'failed blatantly' in mass shootings

Posted September 18, 2013

— Monday's shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard that left 13 people dead is the latest example of a gunman suffering from a mental illness opening fire on a crowd of people.

Aaron Alexis, a former Naval Reservist, had been treated since August by the Veterans Administration for problems that included paranoia, voices in his head and a sleep disorder. Officials said, however, that Alexis, 34, never expressed homicidal thoughts, so the Navy never declared him unfit, which would have voided his security clearance as a contractor at the Navy Yard.

Dr. Assad Meymandi, a Raleigh psychiatrist, said the nation's mental health system has "failed blatantly" by not providing the necessary care to mentally ill people such as Alexis.

"I saw three patients this morning. I didn't know what to do with them," Meymandi said Wednesday, noting there aren't enough in-patient psychiatric beds to treat everyone who needs help.

"If those patients were in treatment, they wouldn't be violent," he said.

Meymandi said the problem has been decades in the making. He noted that, when he received his psychiatric training at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh in the late 1950s, psychiatric patients received predictable, excellent and accessible care.

"Money was not allocated. The system was not nurtured and developed the way it should be," he said.

Dr. Assad Meymandi Psychiatrist says mental health system needs more support

Dave Richard, who took over three months ago as director of North Carolina's mental health system, said the state is making progress.

"You'll hear people say we need more money. We also need to focus on the most appropriate things to make our system right," said Richard, former director of mental health advocacy group The Arc of North Carolina.

North Carolina is taking aggressive steps to address crisis issues and the community mental health system, he said.

"We're going in the right direction. We have a long way to go, but I'm confident you're seeing a change in the system and we're creating a kind of system that's sustainable long term," he said.

Meymandi said, however, that the safety net for the most needy isn't there, and the state's history of reforms doesn't inspire confidence that it will be any time soon.

"Pussyfooting around with bureaucracy and patchwork here and a step there – let's see what happens – it won't work," he said. "We need to be seriously dedicated to the cause of taking care of these people."

28 Comments

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  • JAT Sep 20, 2:29 p.m.

    He didn't have an AR15 - he had a shot gun. Just like 90% of the people in eastern North Carolina. He got the semi-automatic from the security guard that he shot.

  • JAT Sep 20, 2:28 p.m.

    If the military had removed his clearances, he would have sued the doctor for telling on him, the military and doctor for preventing him from having a source of income, etc. The clearance really had little to do with as he would have entered whatever job he had that day and started shooting. Initial report was that he entered on a stolen badge so he could have even gone that route if he wanted to shoot people in that particular building. Nothing short of a person by person search of each employee would have prevented this from happening and 12 years after 9/11, we're not right back to not wanting to bother with mess like that. How soon we forget!

  • JAT Sep 20, 2:25 p.m.

    The system didn't "fail" anyone. The system did all it could do - it can only prescribe meds, treat, commit if medically necessary - but it can't make the person take the meds and it can't make family and friends report the person. It can't even let the physician tell someone he may be dangerous unless he's threatening harm to someone. If he knew he was hearing voices, and knew it was not normal, which obviously he did by telling the cops and by seeking medical treatment, he knew enough that he should have either sought more care or told his friends to keep an eye on him or something. Do people "snap"? Yeah, probably but most things like this aren't caused by snaps. There were 13 people shot in a mass shooting in Chicago last night and yet no one is blaming the medical system for that one. There are just mean people out there and, sadly, nothing can be done to them until they hurt someone.

  • junkmail5 Sep 20, 9:21 a.m.

    But why would a person not in the armed forces(U.S Military) need with an AR15? Seriously...even in western movies you dont see automatic machine guns or whatever. - PJM

    Uh... what?

    The AR-15 is not an "automatic machine gun" and the military does not use them.

    They LOOK like those. But functionally they aren't.

    They're not automatic. They're not machine guns.

    It'd be like if I painted my car green and you asked me "Why do you need an Abrahms battle tank?"

    The hoover dam for example was built ahead of time, and under budget... and provides some of the cheapest electricity in the nation as a result.junkmail5

    Wow, I thought they housed sector 7 there. Oh, they don't exist. The gov't has you goobered jm5, let me know how that works out for ya.
    Offshore

    Uh... you know that was a MOVIE...right?

  • bombayrunner Sep 19, 5:50 p.m.

    No ar15 ... no one posting.

  • bombayrunner Sep 19, 4:35 p.m.

    The problem here is that he was granted a security clearance when he shouldn't have been. Treatment or the lack of treatment had nothing to do with it.

    The lack of treatment had everything to do with it, we wouldn't even be blogging right now if he had successful treatment.

  • Barely Sep 19, 4:32 p.m.

    ... Isn't this what normal minded people (not the media) have ben saying for quite some time?

  • Offshore Sep 19, 4:29 p.m.

    S675-2 : shooters mental illness acuity WAS reported to the base. thats the point. they did nothing with the information.
    SingleLensReflex.SLR

    Finally, somebody gets it. Thanx camera

  • Offshore Sep 19, 4:28 p.m.

    The hoover dam for example was built ahead of time, and under budget... and provides some of the cheapest electricity in the nation as a result.junkmail5

    Wow, I thought they housed sector 7 there. Oh, they don't exist. The gov't has you goobered jm5, let me know how that works out for ya.

  • Offshore Sep 19, 4:25 p.m.

    want to fix this problem, a DB that mental health experts can enter a simple yes/NO when a person's name is entered into it. And the seller can look up the name.
    bombayrunner

    Can we apply that to politicians too? Oh wait, that's called voting. Ooh! maybe we should apply it to voting!

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