After the mass shooting: PCC strengthens mental health resources

  • Play

Photo: Video by kgun9.com

After the mass shooting: PCC strengthens mental health resources

CREATED Nov 9, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - When Jared Lee Loughner's victims spoke up at his sentencing Thursday, almost all of them said the mental health system should have been able to find and treat him before mental illness helped make him a killer.
Loughner was a student at Pima Community College. The College saw he was behaving oddly and told him to leave until he got treatment, but Pima College was criticized for not doing more.
What has the college done since then?
Pima College now has a staff psychologist.  The school says only one other community college in the U-S has one.  Doctor James Sanchez isn't as much a one on one counselor as a coach who teaches faculty and staff to scout for signs of mental illness.   If a student does appear to be troubled, he leads an effort designed to get them the help they need.

Jared Lee Loughner's victims say he should not have had to become a murderer before the system knew he needed help.

Pam Simon said to him: "When you were older and the signs of your mental illness became obvious I can only believe that you wish that someone, a parent, a neighbor, a friend had intervened and gotten you the help you needed before it was too late."
Pima Community College took a lot of criticism after the shooting, when accounts surfaced of Loughner's bizarre behavior while a student there, and it came out the college simply sent Loughner home, not to return until he got help.
Since then the college has hired Doctor James Sanchez as the college psychologist.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Dr. Sanchez: 'Is some of this a direct result of the desire to do something a little more pro active knowing the history with Loughner here?" 

Dr. Sanchez: You know I think the college, since I have been here has been really serious about safety and doing everything they can to put things in place to manage safety."
Doctor Sanchez is able to train staff to recognize and report behavior problems, then pull together reports from different observers for a better picture of a possibly troubled student.      

Craig Smith asked him: "Fair to say, it's a fine line, you could over react or you could under react?"

Dr. Sanchez: "The philosophy now is to cast a wide net.  We want all information.  We want any odd behavior.  We want even the smallest little things to be reported; because at times you don't have the full picture.  So you get one report of one little oddity and it takes the team, or it takes myself gathering the data from across the college to see, is there a pattern, is there something else going on that would suggest we ought to take some stronger action."

For cases that raise the most serious concern Doctor Sanchez chairs a behavioral assessment committee that includes the chief of campus police, the college attorney and other administrators.

Doctor Sanchez does not think the current system would have handled Loughner any differently. He says he looked at the files and while there were accounts of bizarre behavior there was no real sign at the time Loughner would turn violent.