The process for the checks themselves works like this: When an applicant goes to local law enforcement for a weapons permit, that agency seeks a background check from the BCA. The check includes a Minnesota criminal history record and information from the federal database such as factors that would prohibit gun ownership. It also includes a query of the Department of Human Services to see if the applicant has been committed. If there's a possible match, the law enforcement agency is told to contact DHS for more information.
Of the more than 2.1 million records the BCA has received since 1990, about 168,000 are incomplete, or in "suspense" because local law enforcement has not provided required data.
The coalition also wants to improve law enforcement access to court mental health records. Currently, mental health court records are public, but are not readily accessible to officers responding to 911 calls.
The group also proposed changing the way the courts evaluate individuals for mental competency and civil commitment.
Currently, certain inmates are evaluated to make sure they are mentally competent for trial. Then, if there is a commitment hearing, they are evaluated again — sometimes weeks or months later. The group is proposing combining the evaluations in some cases.
"I believe we can simplify the process to ensure that the mentally ill do not languish in a jail cell without treatment," Stanek said. "How do we get these folks treatment before they become violent?"
The group also wants to review the state's civil commitment law. Under current law, courts may only order mental health treatment when an individual has been determined to be a danger to themselves or others. But the group says there might be less serious situations in which courts could order mental health treatment without putting an individual behind bars.
The coalition also is looking to improve the resources for inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care.
Sue Abderholden with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota said community services should be the focus, so people can get help where they live. She added that discussion on changing the civil commitment law should be postponed until after this legislative session, because she and her group think the issue needs a thorough look.
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