A Massive Exercise in Issue-Avoidance

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I keep hoping that the Tucson shooting will prompt relevant public-policy discussions, rather than irrelevant discussions, but my hopes are mainly in vain. By relevant discussions, I mean the following: A national conversation about the way we identify, treat and house the mentally ill (Arizona, as I understand it, has recently cut its mental health budget) and a national conversation about how the mentally ill, and other unqualified people, gain such easy access to handguns.

On the issue of mental illness, friend-of-the-blog Julie Sandorf, the president of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, who has many years of experience on the issues of mental health and on housing for the seriously mentally ill, e-mailed me this:

I can't help but put my two cents in on your comments about involuntary commitment. I couldn't agree with you more about the hijacking of this issue -- caring for the seriously mentally ill -- by the ardent civil libertarians, but that's not the issue here.  The real heartbreak is the serious lack in this country of community mental health systems, particularly in colleges and universities. Given what has been reported about Loughner, the repeated bizarre behavior symptomatic of serious mental illness (and early 20's is exactly the age of onset of schizophrenia), what did the community college do? They threw him out of school. I will wager that he's never been involved in whatever community mental health system exists in Tucson. This is not just a problem with underfunded community colleges-the lack of appropriate and effective mental health services is endemic across our colleges and universities -- including the most elite. 
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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