Minnesota counties haven't implemented early-engagement mental health law

Two recent cases of mental illness leading to violence have left many wondering what can be done to prevent them. 

Last week police say a man shot an officer in the face and sprayed a neighborhood with bullets in Roseville.

Last month, Bloomington police say another man stabbed his girlfriend and set her on fire, before setting his own home on fire.  

Both appear to have had severe mental illness and needed help long before each allegedly escalated to a violent ending. But getting an adult civilly committed has a very high standard.  

"Pretty much someone has to be a danger to themselves or others, which is a pretty high standard and rightfully so because you’re taking away someone’s rights," Sue Abderholden with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill told FOX 9.

RELATED: Roseville shooting: Mental troubles detailed in police reports

Abderholden says not enough is being done to help before someone gets hurt. 

"Right now if you were to send out a mobile mental health crisis team, and they talked to the person and said do you want treatment voluntarily and they said no they would go away," she said.

But in 2020, she says the legislature expanded the commitment act to include early engagement, but that not one county in Minnesota has implemented it. 

"Under this law, they can keep coming back for 90 days to really try to engage that person in treatment," said Aberholden.  

The law legally gives a mental health specialist more time. If the person says no one time or ten times to treatment, the specialist can keep trying to help for 90 days. In addition to the conversation about treatment, the checkup would also make sure the person with mental illness is signed up for benefits like a therapist, housing or food.

It’s a 90-day check-up to improve a life, or possibly save one. 

"I really think it could work, but it’s up to counties," Aberholden said. "Counties can decide to do it or not and right now not really anybody is doing this."