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Mentally preparing

Andy Ouriel • Mar 6, 2013 at 4:46 AM

Carnage dominated national headlines in 2012, a year of unprecedented violence in places once considered safe: movie theaters, malls and schools.

The victims: defenseless.

The suspected killers’ motives: largely unknown.

One fact, however, is certain: A great many of the people who commit mass shootings and mass murders in the U.S. have been diagnosed with mental illness.    

And they’re not the only ones combating these demons in some form.

Studies from the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Erie and Ottawa Counties show more than 50 percent of Erie County’s 77,000 residents have suffered or will experience a severe mental health issue, including everything from anxiety to severe mood swings.


Click here for the e*Paper or get today's Register at a newsstand near you for Q&A with  Kirk Halliday, Mental health and recovery board executive director, Erie County jail administrator Capt. Todd Dempsey, county health commissioner Pete Schade and Sheriff Paul Sigsworth.


In hopes of keeping a national epidemic from hitting home, a motivated batch of local officials are rolling out a proactive plan to reduce the risks of crime and catastrophes, such as mass shootings, that often result from mental health issues.   

Their blueprint:

• Increase the number of hours the health department’s nurses spend addressing mental health issues in jail inmates. They’ve upped the total number of nursing hours from 70 to 88.  

• Establish a treatment center where people can voluntarily check in, preferably before they run into trouble with the law.  

• Create a “redirection” program to treat people who are constantly in and out of jail.

• Reduce the amount spent on temporarily solving mental health issues. They want to spend more money on programs offering viable solutions with long-term results. 


Since 2010, local taxpayers have dished out about $683,000 on mental health treatment for Erie County jail inmates, including doctor’s visits, medication and hospitalization.  


State law requires jails to provide adequate care to all inmates.


To better understand the issue, the Register organized a roundtable discussion with Erie County officials who, in various capacities, oversee people suffering from mental health issues.

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