Associated Press, Published September 28 2013
Since Minnesota office shooting, progress on mental healthMINNEAPOLIS – In the year since a fired employee went on a shooting rampage at a Minneapolis office, mental health advocates say they’ve signs of progress on the kinds of issues that plagued that gunman.
Andrew Engeldinger killed six people at Accent Signage last September before shooting himself in the state’s deadliest workplace shooting. Afterward, his parents said they saw signs of schizophrenia in their son but he shut out their attempts to get him help.
The outcry over the Accent shooting and the killing of 20 children a few months later at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut focused Minnesota legislators’ attention on the issue of mental health.
“We had over 12 bills introduced to fix and improve the children’s mental health system that contained about 29 different provisions and about 17 of them passed,” said Sue Abderholden, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Minnesota. “So in terms of how successful we were this year, it was a landmark session for children’s mental health.”
Abderholden said one key measure sent more than
$7 million toward school-based mental health grants, money she said would make treatment more accessible to children and teens. Early detection is critical for effective treatment, she said.
Less than a month after the shooting, Andrew Engeldinger’s parents, Carolyn and Chuck Engeldinger, said their son started changing in high school.
“I think that what happened was that his senior year, you could see that he was gone, it almost looked like maybe he was on drugs,” Chuck Engeldinger said. “We didn’t know, but you could see it in his eyes, kind of a lost look, a glazed look.”
Though Engeldinger legally owned the gun he used in the shooting, the case also brought new attention to the effectiveness of electronic background checks.
Under federal and state law, people can be denied the right to buy or possess a firearm if judges commit them to a private treatment centers or state hospitals for mental illness or drug abuse. But state officials estimate that about 67,000 court commitment records from Minnesota are missing from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
State legislators approved more than $1 million for courts to find records dating back to 1994 – the year that computer system was created – and add them to the system.
The fight for tighter gun laws will likely return in the next legislative session. State Sen. Ron Latz, the chief author of the legislation that funded the court records update, said he’ll push for what he calls “common-sense” gun laws, such as requiring background checks for private gun sales.