The New York Times reports that advocates are seeking to make changes to mental health laws that would give agencies the power to detain those believed to be mentally ill and potentially dangerous. Citing the case of Andre Thomas, a man who had shown signs of needing mental health treatment but was unable to be detained and eventually killed his wife and two children, the New York Times attempts to make the case for involuntary detainment of the mentally ill.
Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit advocacy organization, issued a report last year that asked lawmakers to change the existing mental health code that allows those who voluntarily enter facilities in search of mental health care but then decide to leave.
Susan Stone, a psychiatrist who led the Texas Appleseed Project to study and recommend the reforms, explains, “It was last fully revised in 1985, and clearly the mental health system has changed dramatically since then.”
The New York Times reports, “The Appleseed report’s recommendations include eliminating provisions in the code that call for law enforcement to obtain a warrant to detain someone in a mental health crisis and adding explicit laws that allow officers to confiscate firearms from people who become dangerous as a result of their mental condition.”
It also recommends a standard one-page intake form for law enforcement officials to complete when taking someone to a mental hospital. Currently, those forms vary from state to state.
But lawmakers assert that changes to the code will likely not happen in this legislative session as it requires legislative studies that have not yet been undertaken.
Some state lawmakers are attempting to make changes to state laws regarding the mentally ill. Representative Jose Menendez of San Antonio has filed House Bill 245, which would permit hospitals to detain mentally ill and dangerous patients for up to 24 hours.
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