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The Batman Theater Shootings - Questions of Mental Health Care

  • Date: 2012/07/23
  • Wendy Taormina-Weiss
  • Synopsis : A young man entered a theater presenting the new Batman movie shot and killed a dozen people and wounded more than fifty others.

Main Document

A young man entered a theater presenting the new Batman movie shot and killed a dozen people and wounded more than fifty others.

The State of Colorado, already weary of traumatic events due to the Waldo Canyon and other fires, has also recently endured an extremely violent act on the part of a 24 year old man. The young man entered a theater presenting the new Batman movie, shot and killed a dozen people, and wounded more than fifty others. Why he committed this terrible act is beyond understanding; he was an honors student and Ph.D. Candidate who was described as a very promising student.

Among the people he killed and wounded were children and many young people. A child who was only a few months old was present in the theater. As he entered the theater, he tossed tear gas into the crowd to disorient the people who were there. The violence did not stop with this young man's acts at the movie theater, unfortunately. He rigged his apartment with explosives as well, with the full intention of killing whomever came through the door of that apartment first, leaving the door to his apartment unlocked.

The shooter is now in custody and is not cooperating with police. Many questions remain, yet for this writer one of the main questions is, 'how many of the people in the theater already experienced forms of disabilities, ones that may have included trauma from previous encounters with life-threatening situations' Another question on this writer's mind is why the gun debate has risen above questions of why there are not annual mental health exams for every single person in America. Annual mental health exams might have prevented this horrific event from ever happening in the first place.

The Affordable Care Act and Mental Health Coverage

March 23rd of 2010 found the President signing into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the goal of making health insurance coverage more affordable for individuals and families, as well as owners of small businesses. What does the ACA have to say about treatment for mental health disabilities or disorders? As it turns out, the ACA will effect mental health care in some different ways such as:

  • Expansion of access to prevention services to include annual wellness visits, outreach, and education campaigns, as well as grants that were available beginning in the year 2010.
  • Availability of grants for school-based health centers that offer mental health and addiction services. The grants began becoming available in 2011 to programs co-locating primary and specialty care.
  • Development of the capacity to provide mental health and substance use services in modern systems through a number of workforce initiatives, to include education and training grants, loan repayment programs, as well as primary care residency training.
  • Enhancement of community-based service options for people who experience mental health or substance use. The ACA intends to change Medicaid state plans and demonstration grants, something that will expand these services for people who have long-term needs.
  • Fundamentally changing which services will be available to people who experience mental health and addiction disorders. A number of provisions will require benefit packages that include treatment for mental health and substance use disorder services and other services, that must be available by 2014.
  • Creation of additional incentives to coordinate mental health care with primary care and addiction services. The year 2011 found grants and Medicaid reimbursement being made available for the creation of health homes for people who experience chronic health conditions, including forms of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

Frightening Aspects about the Shooter

The government has every good intention of reaching for constructive, usable legislation with the ACA in relation to mental health, but where the young man who committed this incredibly violent theater shooting is concerned - the ACA wouldn't have done much good. He was a Ph.D. Candidate who; had he gone on to graduate, might have participated in the very ACA the government has now passed. For the people of America, it is very fortunate this young man did not finish his education and become a doctor; who knows how many people he may have gone on to kill and gotten away with it.

The 24 year old killer in the Batman theater shootings was in no way diagnosed or being treated for a form of mental health disability or substance use disorder, to this writer's knowledge. His status as an honors student apparently hid any of the signs that may have shown what he was about to do; or did it? Being an honors student could not hide certain purchases he made prior to the shooting, which is why the gun debate has arisen so loudly.

The killer purchased several weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition prior to committing the killings. His neighbor downstairs described him as being a loner who was not all that friendly. The young man who committed this heinous act had no twitter, facebook, or other social online accounts.

The signs were there, yet no one was able to find them. The college he attended shut down while the police and police dogs searched every room for explosives. Yet from the perspective of this same college, the young man who had been attending classes was an honors student who was very promising. He was a brilliant young Ph.D. Candidate.

Several people are now experiencing trauma or PTSD due to the actions of this young man. Others have been killed, and there are a great many family members and friends of the people who were in the theater that night who are also traumatized. While the President himself has spoken with some of the people affected by the actions of this killer, the trauma may very well affect them for the remainder of their lives.

Stigma and the Online Reaction

The media today is far more online than it ever has been before in history, complete with the provision of the ability for people to leave comments that are rude, callous, and even highly-offensive, bigoted, or hateful. Stigmatizing statements have appeared through comments on articles related to the Batman theater killings; ones that make this writer question just how far America has come in relation to civil rights.

While many people have left comments that are supportive of those who have been affected by the shootings, others have left comments which can be summarized by stating, 'everyone who has a form of mental health disability is a potential violent threat.' Nothing could be further from the truth - in fact, the overwhelming majority of people who experience a form of mental health disability do not participate in any kind of violent behavior whatsoever. Suggesting they do is a stigmatizing stereotype of the worst kind.

The damages caused by this 24 year old honors student who; from every appearance could have been described as, 'normal, healthy, non-disabled, and promising,' by even the most bigoted person in society are very far-reaching. One fact presents itself more loudly than any other where these killings are concerned - you simply cannot look at a person and tell if they are experiencing a form of mental health disability. Instead of focusing on side issues such as politics, gun control, or spewing out stigmatizing statements people need to focus on those who have been affected by the actions of this young man. People need to focus on taking care of each other, and recovering from the latest disaster to hit Colorado State.

FAQs About Affordable Care Act Implementation Part V and Mental Health Parity Implementation

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