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Failing mental health system sparks increased violence
On January 5th, a Millard South student shot two, killing one, them himself at school in Omaha. On January 8th, another lone gunman shot and killed six, wounding countless others in Tucson.
They're shocking crimes that have us asking why and how did these young men fall through the cracks?
News 5 takes a closer look at our mental health system and the link experts say exists between mental health & violence.
They're images hard to forget - random acts of violence carried out by young men. How did they fall through the cracks?
Before the shootings in Arizona they were looking at decreasing the mental health services in Arizona.
It's a trend being seen nationwide. As budgets get tight, mental health services, often costly, are one of the first things to go. It is chilling news for Hastings Police Chief Larry Thoren.
"We see humanity as it's worst, that doesn't mean everyone is bad, but we know when the services start to decrease, acts of violence start to increase," said Chief Thoren.
Local school officials said mental health services for their students are as vital as ever.
"I think families just have more challenges these days. We have a lot more single parents trying to make ends meet financially, poverty, substance abuse, the mental health system is harder to access," said Amy Swayze, HPS school liaison.
Access to care is limited in rural Nebraska.
"I think mental health is kind of on the back burner," Swayze said.
On the back burner in a region where residents might need care the most.
Psychologist Jeromy Warner said central Nebraska had a high amount of mental health issues in part because of once was the Hastings Regional Center.
"People that were discharged years ago maybe even married other individuals who had mental illness and that leads to 2 out of 3 children they would have mental illness as well," said Warner.
Dr. Warner said research proves access to mental health services can help curb violence.
"In higher crime areas where services have been increased they've had a decrease in violence," Warner said.
Everyone News 5 spoke with said crimes like the Omaha School shooting can be impossible to predict, but that the best defense starts at home and here at school.
"We find more and more families turning to us and the school for help with the issues because they don't maybe know where to turn," said Hastings High Guidance Counselor Jan Carper.
What to fund-the big question now facing Nebraskans, lawmakers and Americans as violent crimes continue to rock our communities.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health-the prevalence of serious mental illness among U.S adults in 2008 was 4.5%.
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