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Maine shooting exposes gaps in mental health treatment and communication practices, official says

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An Army health official told a panel investigating a mass shooting by a reservist who was suffering a psychiatric breakdown that there are limitations on health care coverage for reservists compared to full-time soldiers. complete.

There are no military hospitals in New England and reservists generally do not qualify for care through Veterans Administration hospitals, so they are likely to use private health care, but such providers are prohibited from sharing information with the command structure of the Veterans Administration. Army without the patient’s permission. said Col. Mark Ochoa, a surgeon with the U.S. Army Reserve Command, who oversees the Psychological Health Program.

Gaps in communication could leave the commander who has ultimate responsibility for soldiers’ safety and well-being without a complete picture of their overall health, his testimony suggested.

Ochoa could not discuss the details of the 40-year-old gunman, Robert Card, that killed 18 people and injured 13 other people in October in Lewiston, but provided an overview of services available to soldiers and their families in a crisis.

While there are extensive services available, the Psychological Health Program cannot require that a reservist receive treatment (only a commander can do so) and Ochoa noted that there can be breakdowns in communication. He also acknowledged that soldiers are sometimes reluctant to seek treatment for fear that a history of mental health treatment will harm their careers.

“Hopefully we have demonstrated to the public and to ourselves that this is a complicated and complex process,” said Daniel Wathen, the commission’s chairman and former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, as the session concluded.

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The independent commission established by the governor is investigating the events surrounding the shooting at a bowling alley and a bar and grill. Card’s body was found two days after the shooting. An autopsy concluded that she had committed suicide.

The gunman’s family and fellow Army reservists told police that Card was suffering from increasing paranoia in the months before the shooting. He was hospitalized during a psychiatric breakdown at military training last summer in upstate New York. A reservist, Sean Hodgson, told the superiors in September, a few weeks before the attacks: “I think he’s going to freak out and do a mass shooting.”

The state Legislature later approved new gun laws That reinforced Maine’s “yellow flag” law, which criminalized the transfer of guns to people prohibited from owning them, and expanded funding for mental health crisis care.

The commission intends to release its final report this summer.

In a preliminary report, the panel criticized police handling of the removal of Card’s weapons. He blamed police for giving Card’s family the responsibility of taking his guns (concluding that police should have handled the matter) and said police had authority under the yellow flag law to take him into protective custody.

Mental health experts have said that most People with mental illnesses are not violent.They are much more likely to be victims of violent crimes than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.

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