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DRM Statement on the Death of George Floyd

By |2020-06-12T15:52:35-06:00June 12th, 2020|Uncategorized|

Once again, we have witnessed vast disparities in our criminal justice system. The death of George Floyd and many others before him have highlighted the racial injustices that has long plagued our nation.

This needs to end.

You may be asking how this is a disability issue.

The answer is simple.

People with disabilities are black, people of color, indigenous people, immigrants, detainees, refugees, members of the LGBT community and every religious group. We are interconnected.

Disability Rights Montana stands with those demanding justice. We believe that ALL people, including those who face oppression by systemic racism, are entitled to equal access to the opportunities and safety afforded to ALL members of our society.

We reject hate. We demand change.

As Desmond Tutu wisely said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

DRM is willing to be part of a broader conversation with all stakeholders to find solutions.

DRM is committed to continue our work to reform the criminal justice system through advocacy and legislation to the benefit of ALL.

MT Shares Annual Raffle

By |2020-06-11T14:36:36-06:00June 11th, 2020|Uncategorized|

The 26th annual Montana Shares raffle is now underway and the drawing will be held on September 18th, 2020. Support Disability Rights Montana and other Montana non-profits and become eligible for great prizes. You need not be present to win. Winners will be notified by mail and will be posted within two weeks after the drawing on the Montana Shares website.

There are 33 fabulous prizes, including 14 prize packages this year (each prize package is worth $200-$300)! Raffle tickets are $10 per ticket, 3 tickets for $25, 6 tickets for $40, or 18 tickets for $100.

Money collected from the raffle helps Montana Shares’ program budget, which in turn, helps them support members with the ongoing work to invest in Montana’s human, animal, cultural and natural resources. Click on the images below for a list of prizes and printable raffle tickets. To enter the raffle, print and complete the number of tickets you’d like to purchase and mail them along with payment to:

Montana Shares
PO Box 833
Helena, MT 59624

Image link to PDF list of raffle prizes
Link to printable link to sheet of 18 tickets

State’s Appendix K Waiver Request Approved

By |2020-05-21T08:23:18-06:00May 21st, 2020|Uncategorized|

In response to the Covid-19 emergency, MT DPHHS has submitted a series of amendments to Montana’s Medicaid waivers to help lessen the impact of the situation upon providers and those who receive their services. The most recent of these was an Appendix K request which included various requests for alterations to the way that Medicaid waiver services are provided. This included all three disability waivers in our system: the Big Sky Home and Community Based Waiver (“Big Sky”), the Montana Behavioral Health Severe Disabling Mental Illness Home and Community Based Waiver (“SDMI”) and the Montana Home and Community Based Waiver for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (“0208″). We were given the opportunity to comment on the wavier application prior to submittal, and many of our recommendations were adopted.

The federal government approved the request on April 30, 2020. Significant changes are as follows:

  • Waives prior authorization limits on the following services:
    • 0208 waiver – respite;
    • Big Sky waiver – companion, respite, personal assistance services and non-medical transportation;
    • SDMI waiver – homemaker chore services
  • Permits the following services to be delivered in a participant’s home environment or alternative provider or community setting:
    • 0208 waiver – day supports and activities, retirement services, supported employment-follow along support and individual employment support, personal care, companion, personal supports, homemaker, residential habilitation;
    • Big Sky waiver – adult day health, day habilitation, supported living; and
    • SDMI waiver – adult day health services.

It also allows services to be provided in these additional settings: the private home of the participant or a family member of the participant; a provider owned or controlled or extended family home; the private home of a direct care provider; community center or designated community gathering center; hotel/paid lodging; newly rented room; other residential setting; or telework settings.

  • Approves reimbursing “legally responsible persons” as caregivers for services that already allow a relative or legal guardian to provide. These are:
    • 0208 – day supports and activities, homemaker, residential habilitation, respite, companion services, personal care, personal supports, retirement services, specialized child care for medically fragile children, supported employment-follow along support, supported employment- co-worker support, supported employment- individual employment support, supported employment- small group employment;
    • Big Sky – day habilitation;
    • SDMI – personal assistant attendant, specially trained attendant.
  • Expands provider pool by allowing any enrolled waiver provider to work in all three waivers.
  • Temporarily extends deadlines for all training requirements for 60 days from the original due date.  However, all direct care staff should continue to receive training on the participant’s plan of care for whom they are providing support. Training on the plan of care must consist of basic health and safety support needs for that individual. Providers must continue to ensure that direct care staff are able to demonstrate competency in the skills and techniques necessary to perform their assigned tasks under the participant’s plan of care.
  • Expands provider types for specialized equipment and supplies to purchase items from nontraditional vendors who have necessary items in stock when supply or cost impacts occur due to COVID 19 on a case by case basis.
  • Suspends periodic licensing and quality reviews of provider agencies throughout the duration of the pandemic. Allow provider flexibility in daytime staffing levels as long as care quality is retained.
  • Temporarily modifies processes for initial level of care for waiver eligibility to allow evaluations to be conducted via telephone or other interactive electronic communication.
  • Allows for payment of services to support a participant when temporarily institutionalized in a nursing facility, swing bed, critical access hospital or acute care hospital for a COVID 19-related illness. This is for providing additional supports for communication, behavior and/or extensive personal supports and such services that are not covered in such settings:
    • 0208 – residential habilitation, day supports and activities, retirement services, personal supports, companion, adult foster;
    • SDMI – specially trained attendant, life coach.
  • Adds or increases retainer payments for providers of services identified as habilitation services that include a component of personal care and/or personal care. Retainer payments shall be available when the participant is hospitalized or otherwise unavailable to participate in habilitative services for the duration of COVID 19 related absences. The retainer time limit will not exceed the lesser of 30 consecutive days or the number of days for which the state authorizes a payment for “bed hold” in nursing facilities. The services included are:
    • 0208 waiver – assisted living, companion services, day supports and activities, personal care services, residential habilitation, retirement services, supported employment follow along support, supported employment individual employment support, supported employment-small group employment;
    • Big Sky waiver – residential habilitation, post-acute rehabilitation services, supported living, adult day health, day habilitation, personal care services, private duty nursing;
    • SDMI waiver – residential habilitation, personal care services, specially trained attendant, private duty nursing.

Board of Directors Meeting Agenda – April 25, 2020

By |2020-04-13T14:16:42-06:00April 13th, 2020|Uncategorized|

AGENDA
Board of Directors Meeting
April 25, 2020 – 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
1022 Chestnut Street, Helena, Montana

9:00 a.m. Call to Order
Notice of Meeting
Approval of January 31, 2020 Minutes
Theresa Baldry, President
9:10 a.m. Governance Committee Report
New member – Joel Peder’s application
Kathie Waters
9:25 a.m. PAIMI Report
Kathie Waters, Advisory Council Chair
9:30 a.m. Finance / Audit Committee Report
Review and Approval of FY20 2nd
Quarter Report FY20 Budget Revision
FSA Plan Document Amendment
Dave Richards / Kelli Kaufman
9:45 a.m. Fundraising Committee Report
Will Warberg
9:50  a.m. Bylaws/Legislative Committee Report
Bylaws Amendment Approval
Donna Gleaves
10:00 a.m. Executive Director Report
COVID-19 Update
Bernadette Franks-Ongoy
10:15 a.m. Executive Board Report/Executive Session
Personnel/Grievance updates
10:30 a.m. Additional Items for Discussion
11:00 a.m. Adjourn Meeting

COVID-19: A Letter From DRM’s Executive Director

By |2020-05-05T11:21:11-06:00April 3rd, 2020|Uncategorized|

Dear Friends,

The COVID-19 is affecting all of us. This invisible virus is sweeping across Montana, our country and the world and is disrupting our lives and daily routines. We are all being asked to do our part to “flatten the curve” and practice “social distancing”.

The virus does not discriminate. That being said, policies and practices that are implemented, though intended for the greater good, can be unintentionally discriminatory having negative and disproportionate impacts on people with disabilities. Disability Rights Montana staff is working with and monitoring city, county, and state officials as policies and practices are implemented.

This week we sent a letter to Governor Bullock itemizing steps we believe are necessary to protect Montanans with disabilities. We highlighted discrimination in the delivery and access to medical services, quarantine capacity for people who live in congregate living settings, capacity to provide in-home services, halting termination or redetermination of Medicaid eligibility, flexibility for providers who deliver in-home and day program services, support and expansion of mental health services, and the monitoring of institutionalized settings. We are gratified in knowing that some of our recommendations are being implemented and that others are being considered.

In an effort to support Chief Justice McGrath’s letters to courts of limited jurisdiction encouraging the release of nonviolent offenders, we filed a petition to the supreme court requesting the release of prisoners with disabilities who will be at great risk if this pandemic breaks out in the prison. We are very mindful of community safety and request the release of prisoners with disabilities be handled through the appointment of a special master. The Supreme Court granted our petition and has ordered the parties to full brief the issue.

Many people with disabilities already live in social isolation and now with the outbreak of this pandemic disease we are being asked/required to “social distance” even more. The social distancing requirements add unintentional burden on people with disabilities. We are asking you to be mindful of your neighbors and friends with disabilities who may need a helping hand during this time. Call them and check in. If you suspect unintentional or intentional discrimination, call DRM and report it to us.

Although our office is physically closed, DRM staff are working and available to answer questions and provide information.

We encourage you to call our office and leave a detailed voice message and phone number or email address where we can contact you. Please note that return calls may be made from blocked numbers since staff are working remotely.

DRM will continue to stay in touch with you as we monitor the situation. In the meantime, may you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe. We will get through this together.

Sincerely,

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy

COVID-19 News: Emergency petition filed today

By |2020-04-13T14:06:58-06:00April 1st, 2020|Uncategorized|

Today we filed an emergency petition with ACLU of Montana to ask the Montana Supreme Court to protect prisoners with disabilities by reducing the number of people who are now in or who will enter Montana’s jails and prisons. The ACLU of Montana, together with the Beck, Amsden and Stalpes law firm filed the petition on behalf of Disability Rights Montana.

The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spreading exponentially across the country and the state. According to the petition, the Montana Supreme Court has the power to immediately reduce the number of incarcerated people in Montana in these extraordinary circumstances. Doing so would mitigate the mortal harm to incarcerated people with disabilities while also protecting other incarcerated people from undue harm, public health, and public safety.

According to public health experts, the two most important ways to prevent the spread of the highly-fatal COVID-19 are social distancing and frequent handwashing. For people in Montana’s prisons and jails, complying with those methods is virtually impossible. An estimated 32 percent of prisoners and 40 percent of those in jail report having at least one disability. These disabilities make them particularly susceptible to COVID-19. Further, when the outbreak reaches Montana correctional facilities, it is likely that care rationing programs that discriminate against prisoners with disabilities will be implemented, such as has already occurred in Washington State.

Also at higher risk of infection are the medical and correctional staff who come and go between correction facilities and their homes, potentially spilling the outbreak into communities across the state.

“With a virus this contagious and this lethal, the state has an obligation to act immediately,” said Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, executive director of Disability Rights Montana. “Without swift action, the ripple effect of an outbreak in correctional facilities will endanger everyone, hitting people with disabilities especially hard. Reducing the number of people in prisons and jails is consistent with the recommendations of public health experts and will save lives.”

The petition argues that subjecting non-dangerous prisoners with disabilities to the inevitable outbreak of COVID-19 amounts to deliberate indifference to prisoners’ health and safety and also violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the Montana Constitution.

The petition asks the Montana Supreme Court to reduce the number of people currently in custody — by reducing both those detained before trial  (currently about 60 percent of Montana’s jail population) and those already sentenced — and by taking fewer people into custody in the first place.

As of March 31, Montana had 198 confirmed COVID-19 cases, two of which are correctional officers at the Yellowstone County Detention Center. According to the petition, many of Montana’s prisons and jails are overcrowded, making it virtually impossible to control the inevitable spread of the virus in those facilities without reducing the number of incarcerated people.

“We’ve long been concerned about Montana’s overcrowded correctional facilities,” said Caitlin Borgmann, executive director of the ACLU of Montana. “This public health emergency serves as an important reminder about the dangers of overpopulated prisons and jails. If the state doesn’t act now to reduce incarceration levels, lives will be lost.”

The Montana Supreme Court has already recognized the threat of COVID-19 and issued a number of orders designed to slow the spread of the disease. Furthermore, Chief Justice McGrath has noted that it is “only a matter of time” before the virus spreads in Montana’s correctional facilities.

States across the country are taking similar steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. At least fifteen state and local court systems have already taken steps to limit incarceration during this crisis.

This petition to the Montana Supreme Court follows a letter that, the ACLU of Montana, Disability Rights Montana and other organizations sent to Governor Bullock, the Montana Department of Corrections, and other stakeholders across the state, imploring them to reduce the population of incarcerated individuals. While the state and some counties have made some changes, those efforts are simply inadequate to address the inevitable spread of COVID-19 in prisons and jails across the state.

“This is a dire emergency,” said Justin Stalpes, attorney at Beck, Amsden and Stalpes. “The response cannot be patchwork – the only thing that will stop, or at least slow, the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in correctional facilities and communities is a swift and uniform state-wide response. Lives are at stake – we cannot afford to wait another minute.”

READ THE FULL PETITION

COVID-19: Protecting our staff, clients, and community

By |2020-05-06T08:55:21-06:00March 16th, 2020|Uncategorized|

Disability Rights Montana is closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) developments and following the recommendations published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). Information is rapidly evolving, and we are working quickly to identify how we can support our staff, their families, our clients and our community.

Given the seriousness of the situation, we created the following health and safety guidelines to support and protect our staff and clients. These guidelines will be in place for the foreseeable future, but we will reassess as new information emerges.

Please know we are equally committed during this time to continuing our services to protect and advocate for people with disabilities.

Starting March 16, 2020 until further notice:

  1. Our office is closed to outside visitors indefinitely. Our phone lines will remain open during regular business hours. Please understand that we may return calls from blocked numbers, as some of our staff may be working from home.
  2. If you are a Montana resident and are seeking assistance from our office, please contact us by phone at 1-800-245-4743 or complete and submit the Request for Services Form. We will do our best to respond in a timely manner. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances.
  3. All in-person meetings will either be rescheduled or held by phone or video conference. We believe this is the most responsible action we can take to safeguard the health and safety of our staff while protecting the wider community.
  4. All non-essential staff travel is suspended.
  5. All staff speaking engagements and exhibiting events are cancelled.We would be glad to send our brochures upon request. Email: Advocate@DisabilityRightsMT.org.
  6. All meetings scheduled to take place in DRM’s conference rooms are cancelled and DRM’s conference rooms will not be available for use until further notice.

For more information about the coronavirus pandemic, we recommend following the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MT DPHHS), and your county public health department for news about your local area.

Carroll College Remains Inaccessible

By |2020-04-13T14:09:34-06:00February 27th, 2020|Uncategorized|

Almost 50 years after the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Catholic College has failed to prioritize accessibility despite the struggles that people with disabilities face on the campus. Carroll College has included accessibility in the Master Plan for the College, but has refused to create an action plan or designate personnel to oversee this process. Students, alum, former faculty, and community members have come together to tell their stories regarding the inaccessibility of the College. We will be sharing these stories here on our website. A new story will be available each day during the week of March 9, 2020. Please check them out to learn about the experience of people with disabilities at Carroll College.

Carroll College student, Taylor Tyson, talks about her experience as a student with a disability explaining that “𝒊𝒕 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒘𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒆 𝒃𝒊𝒈 𝒑𝒓𝒐𝒄𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒎𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒈𝒆𝒕 𝒂 𝒓𝒐𝒐𝒎 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝑰 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒂𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒕𝒐…𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒓.”

Join the movement by:
✔️Emailing Chato Hazelbaker: chazelbaker@carroll.edu
✔️Sharing this video

Together we can bring #awareness to the #inaccessibility of Carroll College. #SaintsRollToo

“𝑪𝒂𝒓𝒓𝒐𝒍𝒍 𝒊𝒔 𝒂 𝑪𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒄 𝑪𝒐𝒍𝒍𝒆𝒈𝒆 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝑪𝒂𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒄 𝑺𝒐𝒄𝒊𝒂𝒍 𝑻𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒃𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒄𝒆𝒓𝒏𝒆𝒅 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒔𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒖𝒔.” Hear from Professor Emeritus, Lois Fitzpatrick, about her experience as a faculty member with a disability at Carroll College.

Join the movement by:
✔️ Emailing Chato Hazelbaker: chazelbaker@carroll.edu
✔️Sharing this post

Together we can bring #awareness to the #inaccessibility of Carroll College. #SaintsRollToo

“𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒑𝒆𝒐𝒑𝒍𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝑪𝒂𝒓𝒓𝒐𝒍𝒍 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒃𝒆𝒆𝒏 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒐𝒑𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒐 𝒉𝒆𝒓, 𝒊𝒕’𝒔 𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒃𝒆𝒆𝒏 𝒑𝒉𝒚𝒔𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝒃𝒂𝒓𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒚.” Carroll College graduate, Jenna Starke, speaks to her and her friend’s experience trying to attend Catholic Mass and religious classes on the campus of Carroll College.

Join the movement by:
✔️ Emailing Chato Hazelbaker: chazelbaker@carroll.edu
✔️Sharing this post

Together we can bring #awareness to the #inaccessibility of Carroll College. #SaintsRollToo

“𝑼𝒏𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒕𝒖𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒍𝒚, 𝑰 𝒅𝒐𝒏’𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒌 𝑪𝒂𝒓𝒓𝒐𝒍𝒍 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚 𝒊𝒔 𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚 𝒐𝒑𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒐 𝒉𝒆𝒍𝒑𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒔𝒕𝒖𝒅𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒔 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒉𝒊𝒅𝒅𝒆𝒏 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒂𝒃𝒊𝒍𝒊𝒕𝒊𝒆𝒔,” Carroll College student Sarah Swingley told Disability Rights Montana, as she described her experience as a student with a disability.

Join the movement by:
✔️ Emailing Chato Hazelbaker: chazelbaker@carroll.edu
✔️Sharing this post

Together we can bring #awareness to the #inaccessibility of Carroll College. #SaintsRollToo

Stop Blaming Mass Shootings on People with Mental Illness

By |2020-04-13T14:11:27-06:00August 9th, 2019|Uncategorized|

By: Roberta Zenker, Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Montana

Last week our president proclaimed in the wake of two mass shootings that “mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun.” DJT 8/5/2019. However, doctors and psychological experts agree that no direct correlation exists between mental illness and mass shootings. “Routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing. Research has shown that only a very small percentage of violent acts are committed by people who are diagnosed with, or in treatment for, mental illness.” Statement of American Psychological Association (APA)President Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD, August 4, 2019.

Despite routine claims from politicians and gun advocates to the contrary, studies show that people with diagnosed mental illnesses commit less than 5% of violent crimes. They are much more likely to be victims than to commit gun violence. The Dangers Of The Mental Health Narrative When It Comes To Gun Violence, Sarah Kim, Forbes, August 7, 2019.

Dr. Seth Trueger, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University, told Time that although rates of mental health conditions have risen in the U.S., other countries have seen similar trends in mental illnesses, but far fewer mass shooters than America had experienced. Dr. Trueger, along with several other medical professionals, argue that it is the access to the guns – not mental health systems – that causes this large-scale firearm violence.

Id. (Emphasis added).

Still, more Americans truly believe that mental health problems are the leading cause of these mass shootings even though medical experts repeatedly demonstrate that this is not the case.

Violence is not a product of mental illness; violence is a product of anger. An adult who is able to effectively regulate anger uses it to alert himself to a problem situation. Managed well, it is an extraordinarily effective warning system. Unregulated, impulses are stronger, and thinking is less clear. The poorly regulated adult with enhanced reactivity, impulsivity, and a constant state of fight or flight sees in every interaction the potential for being harmed and the necessity to defend himself. The angrier he feels, the less clearly he will think. His reactions will often be out of proportion to the situation, and he will be prone to violence. Because he sees the world as a constant source of danger, he externalizes blame, to his spouse, children, neighbors, government, and “others” in race, nationality, religion, or culture. Angry, blaming, aggressive, and unable to modulate his emotions, he can become a danger to others.

Psychologist, Laura L. Hayes, Slate 2016. Hayes writes that mass murders do fit a profile: He is male, white, and single, divorced, or separated. He is also isolated, lacking in social support, and bears a grudge toward someone or something. He externalizes blame and sees himself as wronged. Id. Notably, the profile does not include the presence of mental illness.

Time, and time again, psychological experts report that no correlation exists between diagnosed mental illness and mass murder. “Indeed, the U.S. is facing crises in both gun violence and mental illnesses. However, to correlate those two separate phenomena and to blame mass shootings on the mentally ill is grossly inappropriate.” Id.

The mentally ill shooter narrative disproportionately, indiscriminately assesses blame to a vast segment of the population. Approximately half of the U.S. population experiences a mental illness during their lifetime. Dangers, supra. (Thus, it is manifest that if the mental illness shooter narrative had any merit, there would be a far greater number of mass shootings). Mental illness ranges from ordinary depression that we might refer to as “feeling down” or the “blues” to clinical, long term depression, paranoia, anxiety, schizophrenia, or any of the “more than 200 diagnoses listed in the most recent version of Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is released by the American Psychiatric Association.” No Tie Between Mental Illness and Gun Violence, Arash Javanbakht, Live Science, August 6, 2019. The author rightly asks: “Now, when one suggests that gun access should be restricted for people with mental illness, do they mean all of these conditions? Or just some, or some in defined circumstances? For example, should we remove guns from all veterans with PTSD, or all people with social anxiety, or those who habitually pick their skin?” Id. And, we might rightly ask just who would decide – the vendor at a gun show, a retail sales clerk, the police, a doctor, a judge? The so called “red flag laws” are such a proposal, except that they are limited to police and family members and provide a measure of due process in that the person seeking to deprive another of gun possession must petition a court for an “order from a judge to confiscate firearms from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others.” CBS News, Second Amendment advocates warn Trump over support for “red flag” laws, Kathryn Watson, August 14, 2019. Watson writes that such laws already exist in 17 states and the District of Columbia. While there are many cases in which such court orders may be perfectly appropriate, in a state like Montana where subsistence hunting is common, “red flag laws” might be misguided and not the best solution to the problem of mass shooting. As inferred above, making assault style firearms and large capacity magazines unavailable to the public is likely a better solution to the mass shooting problem.

That is because the facts do not support a correlation between gun violence and diagnosed mental illness. Less than 1% of the U.S. population experiences schizophrenia. No Tie, supra. And, of those, “it is rare to find people who are a risk of harm to others or at risk of acting violently.” They are much more likely to harm themselves. Id. Thus, a “red flag” law that restricts a subsistence hunter who also happens to be schizophrenic (managed by medication) from possessing a hunting rifle would have no impact on the mass shooting problem.

Despite the widespread belief that a person with serious mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia can be dangerous, only 3% to 4% of all the violent acts committed in a given year in the U.S. are committed by people who have been diagnosed with these commonly cited mental illnesses. Id. “Various epidemiological studies over the past three decades suggest that the vast majority of people with serious mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression, are not violent.” Jeffrey Swanson, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University (Specialty in gun violence and mental illness). Again, these are conditions that are much more likely to lead to suicide rather than homicide.

Javanbakht also points out that, while the incidence of severe mental illness remains near constant across international boundaries, the incidence of gun violence does not. It is much higher in the US where guns are readily accessible. In addition, any likelihood of violence amongst the mentally ill is exacerbated by substance abuse such that substance abuse is more of a culprit.

“Finally, one has to keep in mind that the presence of a psychiatric diagnosis in a murderer, does not necessarily justify causality, as much as the weapon the person carries.” No Tie, supra. What the author is saying is that, due to the prevalence of mental illness in our society (approximately 50%), statistically speaking, odds are that eventually a shooter will experience mental illness. Of course, this means that the converse is true as well – because of the prevalence of guns in our society, eventually a person with mental illness is going to be a shooter. However, and this must be stressed, it is much more likely that a mass shooter is going to fit the profile above, and not be a person with a diagnosed mental illness.

What is the significance of a diagnosed mental illness? This is quite simple, really. Proponents of the mental health shooter narrative suggest that keeping guns out of the hands of people who experience mental illness will solve the mass shooting epidemic. They are often adherents of thorough background checks, and laws that would prohibit people who experience mental illness from purchasing guns. The HIPAA and enforcement difficulties inherent in this approach notwithstanding, people with a diagnosed mental illness are those who have sought and obtained treatment. A diagnosis can be made only by a mental health professional. Of course, once a diagnosis is made, appropriate treatment usually follows, often including medication and counseling which help multitudes of people with mental illness lead “normal,” healthy, functioning lives. These are the people who will show up on a background check for mental illness, while people with a non-diagnosed mental illness will likely not.

Mass shootings are the result of anger, hate, exaggerated domestic violence, revenge or retribution. Blaming mass shootings on mental illness is ‘inaccurate’ and ‘stigmatizing,’ experts say. Jacqueline Howard, CNN, August 5, 2019. Thus, “[f]raming mass shootings as a ‘mental health issue” certainly could lead to policies aimed at improving mental health, but “that won’t prevent the next shooter, said Lori Ann Post, a professor of emergency medicine and medical social sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who studies violence and policy.” Id. By all means, we should improve and increase services to people who experience mental illness. However, as APA President Rosie Phillips Davis, PhD concludes:

[A]s our nation tries to process the unthinkable yet again, it is clearer than ever that we are facing a public health crisis of gun violence fueled by racism, bigotry and hatred. The combination of easy access to assault weapons and hateful rhetoric is toxic.

We must treat people who experience mental illness and stop blaming them for a public health crisis far beyond them.

The real solution to mass shootings is obvious, even if we lack the political will to adopt it. However, in the meanwhile, we must stop using mental illness as the scape goat.