Loughner Proves Need for Mental Health Awareness

The fact that Jared Loughner's family apparently never got him help has a familiar ring to Clarke Romans, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

"It ain't no cocktail conversation piece," said Romans. "People don't talk about it. There's too much stigma."

Romans, who heads up the local chapter of the national association of mental illness, says Ariz. has very progressive laws to deal with the mentally ill.

In some states actual law-breaking must happen before someone can be involuntarily committed, but in Ariz., all that's needed is a witness' judgment that a person is persistently delusional or potentially a threat.

Should Mentally Ill Be Locked up Against Their Will?

Loughner was deemed a problem at school by teachers and Romans says he could have been committed.

But there is no record of him ever getting treatment, or of anyone calling the mobile acute care teams available there.

Unfortunately, few know about the assistance

"Probably one-tenth of one percent of the population of this community," estimates Romans.

Romans estimates there may be as many as 80,000 mentally ill people in Tucson, that's about a tenth of the population, but only 25 percent are getting any kind of treatment.

Special Section: Tragedy in Tucson

Nationwide, money is a big issue.

"People, they're afraid it's going to bankrupt the health care system," said Dr. Carol Bernstein, president of the American Psychiatric Association.

For the first time in more than three decades, mental health funding in this country is declining.

Congresswoman Giffords attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a mental health facility in Ariz. last Oct, but the fact is that Arizona's mental health budgets have been cut $65 million over the last three fiscal years - a 51 percent reduction.

For Lois Early of Glendale, the Ariz. law may be well-intentioned, but the services are lacking. Her 25-year-old daughter, Toby, has bipolar disorder with psychotic features.

"You really have to be a pest," said Early. "You have to be a tireless advocate if you have a loved one that has a mental illness."

And apparently Jared Lee Loughner had no advocate at all.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.