Under AZ Law, Loughner Could Have Been Involuntarily Committed

by Katrina Trinko

Much of the debate following the tragic shootings this weekend centered on how the U.S. treats the mentally ill. Are current laws too lax, not forcing those who badly need medical treatment to get it? Interestingly, under Arizona law, Jared Loughner most likely could have been forced to get medical treatment, based on his erratic behavior before he went on the shooting spree. USA Today reports:

Under Arizona law, anyone can call the county or regional health authorities with concerns about a person’s mental health, and authorities are required to send out mobile units to assess the person’s condition, said Brian Stettin, policy director at the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington, Va., which advocates for involuntary commitment for mental illness.

The person who files a request for commitment must list the names of two witnesses who can attest to the subject’s behavior, although they don’t have to sign the document themselves, Potts said.

Typically, states allow involuntary commitment only if people pose a danger to themselves or others, or if they are profoundly disabled by their mental illness, to the point of being unable to take care of themselves, said Paul Ragan, associate professor of psychiatry at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

But Arizona allows for involuntary commitment if someone is deteriorating from a mental illness and could benefit from treatment, Potts said. The law is intended to catch people before they do something dangerous.