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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How will Columbia "turn the page" on the Mall shooting?

    I have always admired individuals who come to terms with a tragedy by trying to create a positive response to the tragedy.  Examples abound of just this type of response.  Think of the Susan G. Komen Foundation to fight breast cancer, Lance Armstrong Livestrong Foundation,  Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Amber Alert Program.  The old axiom of "turning lemons into lemonade" is one that I have always tried to live by.  Tragedy can be a powerful motivator for positive action.
    This thought has been running through my mind in the past week as I try to process the tragedy that occurred at the Columbia Mall.  Columbia has always seemed to be a community that would not want to be defined as "that town that had another Mall shooting."  Somehow we are the kind of thoughtful community that would use this tragedy as a way to focus our energies on how we could be improved our community in some substantial manner.  Some of my thoughts in this direction lead me to think of examining how some of our youth can be so disenfranchised from society that they see shooting others as a way of expressing their pain.  When family and friends see troubling behaviors in a young family member why is it difficult to access a mental health resource to address the behaviors.  Mental health care has always been the stepchild in our healthcare system.  Somehow insurance coverage for mental health care has always had artificial limits of coverage to control the cost of insurance policies.  Do we think it is acceptable to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the last few months of life through artificial means but often limit mental health visits to 10 visits with a 50% co-pay?   We have many resort type mental health treatment facilities around the country for those with the means to pay tens of thousands of dollars for care but funds for community mental health centers are often the first places to cut funding in tight budget times.
      Maybe it is a time for some discussions on how this imbalance in care can be addressed in our community.  We have many resources in our community to address this problem of identifying and reaching out to troubled individuals.  A concerted effort to address this issue might be the best way for us to use the Mall tragedy to have a positive outcome for our community. Seems to me to be a logical way that Columbia would be more than just another town with Mall shooting.


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