When is enough, enough?

What is their definition of “dangerous”? How many murders does it take? How many sick homeless people does it take? How much sadness does it take … for the system to finally change?

“We’re protecting civil liberties at the expense of health and safety,” says Doris A. Fuller, the executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit group that lobbies for broader involuntary commitment standards.

Joe Bruce’s story is particularly haunting. In 2005, his son William, who had schizophrenia, was discharged from a mental health facilitiy, even though he had recently threatened two people with a gun. Bruce remembers begging the facility to reconsider. “I said: ‘In all likelihood, he is going to kill someone. And in all likelihood, that someone is going to be her.’ And I pointed to my wife and asked them: ‘Do you understand? Do. You. Understand?’ And they let him out anyway.” One year later, William killed his mother with a hatchet.

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