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Virginia Must Prize Mental Illness Treatment Over Psychosis
Date:1/25/2008

Legislature must pass more than lip service reform in wake of VA Tech tragedy

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Executive Director, Kurt Entsminger, Esq., Treatment Advocacy Center:

Virginia's mental illness treatment laws are among the most restrictive in the nation. To get help via involuntary commitment, the state requires someone obviously incapacitated by the symptoms of an illness like schizophrenia to be an immediate physical danger to themselves or others.

The tragic results of this archaic law are seen every day across the Commonwealth, but drew national attention in the aftermath of the murders at Virginia Tech. The stories that play out every day in our homes and towns draw little national media attention, but create much pain.

Just ask Kathy Harkey.

"I cry every day over what happened to us and our son," Harkey told the Richmond Times Dispatch after the Virginia Tech murders. Harkey and her family tried for four years without success to get treatment for her son Joshua, but every door was closed because Joshua refused treatment and was not dangerous. Her struggle ended when Joshua, 24, killed himself.

For years, pleas for better treatment laws from families like the Harkeys, mental health professionals, law enforcement, and a few caring legislators have gone unheeded by the General Assembly. Last April, the failures of Virginia's treatment laws stunned the nation, and the General Assembly finally began to pay attention. The result is literally dozens of commitment law bills now under discussion.

Unfortunately, the majority of the proposed bills only marginally change Virginia's antiquated laws, and would not have helped people like Kathy's son Joshua. They will give legislators a photo op and a warm feeling, but will not bring real help to the people who most need it.

People who are clearly psychotic and dangerous to themselves
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SOURCE Treatment Advocacy Center
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