The scariest thing about the alleged Capitol Hill hatchet murderer is that a lot more people like him are going to be on the streets—without help—soon. In order to deal with Washington State's $4.6 billion budget shortfall, tens of millions of dollars are going to be pulled from public mental health services (the very services that ideally should be helping people like Michael LaRosa and his alleged victim, Joe LaMagno.)

The alley where Joe LaMagno was killed by more than ten hatchet strikes to his head.
  • Kelly O
  • The alley where Joe LaMagno was killed by more than ten hatchet strikes to his head.

You might say, like LaRosa's brother, that more involuntary commitment of the mentally unstable will solve this kind of problem, but already there's not enough money for beds for all of the involuntarily committed in King County, and the coming cuts are going to mean even fewer available beds. In the near future, people in severe psychological crises are just going to have to be strapped to beds in hospitals and held there until, at some point, a treatment or involuntary-commitment bed opens up somewhere. And that's just one small corner of the money-related problems in the state's mental health system, a part of the social safety net that few people think about until someone falls through that section of the net in a spectacular, deadly way.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents over 2,500 mental health workers in this state, recently issued a white paper calling crimes such as the hatchet murder "siren warnings of a state mental healthcare safety net in deepening crisis" and calling on state legislators to avoid further cuts. Few expect they'll be able to. "They don't have a lot of options," says Amnon Shoenfeld, director of King County's mental health services.

Read the whole thing—including why budget cuts are also making it hard to figure out whether LaRosa should be charged with a second murder—RIGHT HERE.

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