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Experts Say Improve Mental Health Care Or Mass Shootings Will Continue

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- Family members say the gunman in last week's Sandy Hook school massacre battled mental health problems for most of his life. What can we do to stop these mass killings?

Adam May has more on the calls to improve mental health care.

Experts in the field say if we do not do more to improve mental health care in this country, another school shooting is pretty much guaranteed.

It's been widely reported that school shooter Adam Lanza suffered from some kind of personality disorder. But it's still unclear if his family ever tried to get him help to prevent him from turning violent.

"Do we want Connecticut to happen again, three times, four times, ever again? Never!" said Linda Frederico Kohler.

Kohler is a mental health advocate in Baltimore. Her organization NAMI is overwhelmed by requests for help.

"A mother wanted her teenager to see a psychiatrist; they could not get in to see someone for six weeks," Kohler said.

From the mass shootings in Tuscan aimed at former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to the Colorado movie theater massacre, shooters  in many recent mass killings suffered from mental illness and failed to get appropriate treatment.

Funding for mental health in the United States has been slashed for decades--down almost $2 billion since 2009. Maryland's funding is down 4 percent.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is critical of the budget cuts.

"I think mental health is something that has not gotten the support and resources that it needs," Ulman said."There's a lot of troubled folks out there. We have a culture of violence. You never know what gets in the head of somebody who's not well."

Over the years, many institutions for the mentally ill have disappeared, leaving more families to deal with sick children at home.

Maryland's first lady has made educating parents about their options a priority.

"Mental health problems affect one in 10 children," Katie O'Malley said in a public service announcement.

Advocates say mental health care also needs appropriate funding to prevent another Sandy Hook massacre.

"What has happened now is going to be rippled throughout our communities for years to come if we don't address it now," Kohler said.

Despite the funding cuts, Maryland is ranked one of the best when it comes to access to mental health care.

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