Universities Need More Cash, Higher Expectations, Says Kaine

RICHMOND, Va. – In an interview with the Associated Press, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said the report on the massacre at Virginia Tech demonstrates the need for significantly more mental health funding, but there must be higher expectations for a system that failed to stop a disturbed student from committing murder.

The governor is most focused on the 147-page report finding from the panel he appointed to review the shooting rampage that killer Seung-Hui Cho never received treatment as ordered. Treatment may have prevented Cho from shooting 32 people and then himself on the university campus.

Kaine said there should be follow-up when people have been determined to be dangerous and ordered to receive treatment; it should be ensured that treatment has been received. Cho’s failure to receive support from the state mental health system, Kaine continued, was dangerous, and probably not an exception.

The governor plans to present the General Assembly with a legislative package and budget items after spending the next several weeks analyzing the report findings and recommendations.

Despite a state budget shortage, he says the government will have to come up with money and ideas to fix an ailing system. He is concerned that mental health services have been underfunded, and because of that, there has been less accountability.

Mental health services advocate Mira Singer noted that while more funding is needed, fixes are also required throughout the system rather than in just a couple of areas.

The Family Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA) requirements must be amended and more clearly defined so that the backgrounds of those who need mental health counseling are known to officials at the colleges they attend, Kaine said.

The report was positive about the professional help Cho received in elementary school and high school from counselors and instructors, but there was no continuing support at Virginia Tech. Information about his background and needs was not shared, despite multiple signs that he was troubled and potentially violent.

The report also supports legislative initiatives for banning guns on college campuses. Kaine has backed these initiatives for years in the legislature. The report recommends that background checks be required for everyone who wants to buy a firearm at gun shows. Kaine said the gun show loophole would be re-examined.

Starting Sept. 1, gun buyers will need to complete a new federal form clarifying that anyone who has been found to be a danger to themselves or others is forbidden from buying a firearm or ammunition, the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms and Explosive announced in a news release. The form was revived because Cho was somehow still able to buy guns, according to ATF acting director, Michael J. Sullivan.

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