How you can stop a mental health crisis before its too late in Kansas or Missouri?

MISSION, Kansas - The Arizona mass shooting has people across the country asking if the attack could have been prevented.

School officials, classmates and friends have gone on the record to say they believed the alleged Arizona gunman displayed anywhere from bizarre behavior to a mental health condition that made them feel unsafe.

If you know someone who displays similar types of behavior -- what does Kansas and Missouri allow you to do?

Experts say don't be polite, be proactive.

If you're willing to report someone you believe has a mental illness, the laws in Arizona will give you more power than they will here.

In Arizona just a few months ago, college officials say they kicked Jared Lee Loughner off campus after
he had several disruptions in class.

They told him he could come back to campus only if he "obtained a mental health clearance, in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence didn't present a danger to himself or others."

But some are now saying those school officials dropped the ball. They say someone actively needed to tell someone like Johnson County Mental Health Clinician Tanya Hadley about their concerns.

Hadley said, "We don't have any idea what phone call we'll take who's going to walk in the door."

She's one of several mental health clinicians who opens her schedule every day to take walk-ins or phone calls from
concerned family, police or doctors about potentially mentally ill people.
They see an endless stream of people daily and unpredictable circumstances too. One happened while we were there.

Hadley listened to an overhead message in the office and quickly left the room.
"That's the panic button so I'm going to address what is going on out there."

She came back and said the crisis was adverted..

People in her field wonder if the Arizona crisis could have been adverted if someone -- a family member, a stranger -- just would have come forward and reported Loughner's alleged bizarre behavior.

Arizona has one of the most expansive mental health laws in the nation. It allows any person , simply concerned about the mental state of another to petition the court for a psychiatric evaluation.

But in states like Kansas or Missouri, the standard is higher. Experts like Hadley say someone with mental illness must be willing to come in on his own. And in order to get someone involuntarily committed in Missouri or Kansas to a mental health facility -- that person must also show he or she is a risk.
Missouri law refers to specifically "a person believed to be imminently harmful" to either oneself or others.

Hadley clarified, "There's people who have mental illnesses but it's their choice.
We cannot involuntarily hospitalze someone just because of a severe mental illness."

She says they do involuntarily commit a few people every month all thanks to someone picking up the phone and calling them.

Hadley says most strangers, acquaintances or neighbors won't get involved because they believe it's none of their business.

Clinics can treat hundreds of people each month when that person is willing to come in and talk -- which Hadley says is most often the best deterrent to a condition that might lead to any bigger problems.

There are several mental health crisis hotlines to call on both sides of the state line.

To call for help in Johnson County dial 1-913-831-2550 and in Wyandotte County call 1-913-788-4200.
The crisis hotline for Missouri is 1-888-279-8188.

Print this article Back to Top