Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will ask the state general assembly Tuesday for $18.5 million to help “redesign and strengthen” the state’s mental health services and support system.
The announcement comes just days after police say a gunman murdered his own mother, then killed six adults and 20 children at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school before committing suicide. The shooter, Adam Lanza, has been described as deeply troubled.
A Hickenlooper aide, however, tells ABC News the Colorado reforms have been in the works ever since a mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater in July. Twelve people were killed and 58 wounded when police say James Holmes opened fire during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Holmes sought treatment from a psychiatrist while a graduate student at the University of Colorado, and his defense attorneys have said they believe their client is mentally ill. Holmes has not yet entered a plea.
Hickenlooper’s plan would include changes to state law allowing the judicial system to instantly transmit mental health commitment records to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation so the information would be immediately available for firearm background checks. The plan would also establish a statewide mental health crisis hotline and would open five 24/7 walk-in mental health crisis centers. Services for “seriously mentally ill” people would be expanded, including help with housing as patients transition from mental health hospitals back into the community.
Colorado most recently dealt with a mentally ill school shooter in February 2010, when Bruco Eastwood was accused of shooting and seriously wounding two students outside Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton. A jury found Eastwood not guilty by reason of insanity of attempted first-degree murder and he was committed to a state mental hospital.
Deer Creek Middle School is a short drive from Columbine High School, where two students murdered a teacher and 12 other students in 1999 before killing themselves.
Hickenlooper told the Associated Press last week that he believes “the time is right” to talk about meaningful gun control, saying enough time had passed since the Aurora theater shootings. The governor’s comments were published the day before Friday’s shooting in Newtown.