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Mental Health Providers Explain Involuntary Services

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Ask three people why the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened and you'll get as many answers. Guns. Video games. Mental health.

It's often after an incident like the one in Newtown, Connecticut when people open up about the warning signs they should have seen.

But sometimes people recognize those clues before anything like that ever happens.

"Someone is not as happy as they look or sound is on this end of the continuum. That may not be so easy to see. But we're talking about the person this end of the continuum where their behavior is very dangerous. I don't think it's always obvious. But a high majority of the time it is," said Robert Williams, Director of Behavioral Health Services at the United Hospital Center.

Williams said family members sometimes struggle to get that person the help they need.

"Often, families and police departments are very frustrated that behavior is seen that is problematic but doesn't meet the code of involuntarily committing someone. There's a real balance between taking away someone's civil liberties, freedoms and trying to make a decision that's good for the community as well," Williams said.

The code is pretty strict and most people who are brought in to hospitals and treatment centers don't meet those standards.

He said that's the difficult part.

"It's clear the individual is showing signs they need treatment or are very unhealthy but the bar is high and often those types of behaviors won't get a person committed," Williams said.

He said there are other services in place when an involuntary commitment isn't an option.

"There are a lot of different kinds of interventions between no care and commitment. One size doesn't fit all. Our workers can go out in the community and create a relationship with the kind of people you are talking about. We believe the best care is a continuation of care," Williams said.