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AZ HB2559 will not create safer campuses

AZ HB2559 will not create safer campuses
AZ HB2559 will not create safer campuses
Tracy Lynn Cook, Gilbert Special Needs Kids Examiner

A House panel voted Wednesday to require community colleges and universities to inform mental health specialists when students, faculty or others are suspended or expelled because of threats of violence.

According to an article in the East Valley Tribune (

The unanimous action by the Committee on Military Affairs and Public Safety comes slightly more than a month after six were killed and 13 injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a Tucson shooting. Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, noted that Jared Loughner, charged in that case, had a history of run-ins with officials at Pima Community College over allegedly violent behavior, eventually resulting in his expulsion.

Heinz's original measure would have required officials at any school to notify the Department of Public Safety when a person "suffered a significant or severe psychological episode or incident.'' The idea, he said, was to create a database which licensed gun dealers would have to check before making a sale.

The new version in HB 2559 is far more circumspect.

It would require state and local agencies, including public colleges, to file a report with local behavioral health agencies if someone has been expelled, suspended at least twice or fired because of violence or threats of violence. But those threats would have to be aimed at someone else.

For those of us who are raising children who have mood disorders, the idea that random people will be creating random reports and submitting those reports to "proper authorities" is an incredible invasion of privacy.

What if a student slams a door? Is that worth a report? What if a student has a bad day and is upset? Is THAT worth a report?!?

This type of legislation creates a vast grey area whereby untrained professionals become instant experts in behavior analysis.

Heinz said behavioral health agencies have experts who can review the information and determine if further action is necessary.

Who are these experts who will have so much free time to devote to this "reacitve" legislation? If they have so much free time, maybe they should devote some to "proactive" programs aimed at helping people who are on waiting lists for mental health treatment programs.

"In most cases, Heinz said, the report will be set aside; in some, a specialists might try to contact the person or a family member."

Set aside *WHERE*? Where will this report alerting to the suspicion of mental illness be kept? In the student's file? In a national database? Who will have access? University admission departments? Employment agencies? Twitter?!? *WHO*?!?

"It is only after some belief that a person is a danger to self or others, he said, that there might be an effort made to have the person committed temporarily for evaluation."

Not to be a broken record, but *WHO* will have this authority? Where are the treatment facilities going to materialize from? Who is going to fund this program? Many parents who seek treatment for their children are put on waiting lists that are months long - how are these "suspected mentally ill" going to receive immediate treatment? Will they take the place of someone who was waiting for that help?

This action by the Arizona House panel is poorly thought out, reactive, and dangerously ineffective. Their energy would have been better spent easing the bottleneck of services for people who need mental health services, but can't afford them, or can't access them, because they are simply not available.

As a mother and a citizen, one Gilbert mother believes this bill was written so the representatives from Tucson can say they took action. They want to be able to say they took steps to "fix" what happened in the Tucson shooting of Gabby Giffords.

In reality, they've done nothing of the sort.

#tagnames #AZ Politics #HB 2559 #mental health #Tucson shooting #colleges and universities

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