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HoCo Budgeting for Mental Health After Mall Shootings: Ulman

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman pledged to break the silence about mental health issues.

County Executive Ken Ulman at The Mall in Columbia after the shootings that left three dead in January. (Credit: Andrew Metcalf)
County Executive Ken Ulman at The Mall in Columbia after the shootings that left three dead in January. (Credit: Andrew Metcalf)

Taking the taboo out of mental illness was a vital issue Howard County Executive Ken Ulman honed in on during his eighth and final state of the county address.

"It was a Saturday less than two months ago when we learned that shots were fired inside The Mall in Columbia, and that those shots resulted in fatalities," Ulman said Thursday.

Darion Aguilar, 19, of College Park, fatally shot two individuals and himself at The Mall in Columbia on Jan. 25, and police said his motive remains unknown.

"We learned firsthand that no place is immune from gun violence," Ulman continued, speaking before the Howard County Chamber of Commerce at Turf Valley in Ellicott City.

While Ulman "could not be prouder" of the police chief and the community in their responses to the tragedy, he stated: "In the end, we cannot let this become the new normal."

In the upcoming county budget, Ulman pledged to allocate funds for what he called "mental health first aid training." Providers would be trained to identify, understand and respond to early warning signs of mental illness, he said.

The Columbia mall shooter, who lived in College Park, wrote in his journal that he needed help, but police said that after he told a doctor he was hearing voices and was referred to a psychiatrist, he did not pursue assistance.

At a press conference last week, Police Chief William McMahon said that interspersed with Internet searches about mass shootings on the shooter's computer, detectives found he was researching things like suicide hotlines.

"Although we will never know exactly why he didn't share his struggle, I do know that in our society, there is still too much stigma associated with mental illness," Ulman said. "Stigma takes hold when we are silent about an issue. Its grip tightens through a lack of awareness about available resources, or even how to ask for help."

To bring the issue of mental health out into the open, he said the county would put together a team of trainers to educate personnel across community agencies and institutions, particularly those dealing with children and young adults.

Ulman said he planned to create additional police positions focused on mental health as well, and he would increase the county's commitment to mobile crisis teams.

The budget proposal is due April 1 and will be subject to public hearings and County Council approval before the budget is adopted in May.

This will be Ulman's final budget proposal, as he was elected in 2006 and is term-limited. Next, he is seeking the lieutenant governorship in Maryland on the ticket with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running for governor.

Related:

Read the entire text of the "State of the County" speech here.

Brook Hubbard March 21, 2014 at 03:57 PM
"False dilemma" is an all-or-nothing approach to an issue. You said, "no amount of money can stop all the mentally ill from committing these horrendous acts" which implied its not worth spending any money if you can't stop everything. ********* I never said that we should pour millions of dollars into a program for one single person. My exact quote was that "if they can stop even a single person from committing mass murder, without society-wide consequences, then it's worth the effort." That includes showing a decrease in mental health-related deaths and injuries with reasonable negative impact. Going back to seat belts, there was an outcry about cost, both on the manufacturers (who had to install them) and the people (who were ticketed for not adhering to the law). Despite that, estimates on the lives ~saved~ in accidents far outweighed the initial costs, and now society and industry have adapted to their requirement.
Brook Hubbard March 21, 2014 at 03:57 PM
Please note, that I actually agree that Ulman is likely pandering and that he hasn't presented an actual plan. That's why I posted my questions regarding what his "mental health first aid training" would entail. I just don't agree that everything is all-or-nothing; you can show some success at high initial cost and the program can be considered worthwhile.
woodbine5 March 21, 2014 at 04:06 PM
NO WHERE did I ever imply that if we can't stop something 100% than it was not worth doing. In this case regarding Mr. Ulman, the "all or nothing" you seem to cling to is he wants ALL your money and will give NOTHING in regards to specifics as to where it will go. I don't think any well informed responsible citizen should support any program, regardless of its PC nature, if a politician cannot offer any specifics on where, and how the money will be spent. If Mr. Ulman, or whomever he puts in charge of this proposed program, can show us how it will be better then what we currently have in place, that it will have measurable accountability, and that it will be cost effective for tax payers, then he has my vote-if not......then..
MG42 March 22, 2014 at 09:58 AM
At least he's focusing on the real issue- mental health- and not chasing the red herring of gun control. Anytime Ulman does ANYTHING it's for political gain. I'm sure he doesn't take a crap without figuring out how many votes he can get from doing so.
Cassie Sharon March 22, 2014 at 12:00 PM
it's time for office, my opinion of Howard County is toxic I see too much corruption especially in the court house. Ulman needs to fix the real issues and stop worrying about his platform.

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