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Maine shooting exposes gaps in mental health treatment and communication practices, official says

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Maine shooting exposes gaps in mental health treatment and communication practices, official says
News

News

Maine shooting exposes gaps in mental health treatment and communication practices, official says

2024-06-14 09:38 Last Updated At:09:40

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An Army health official told a panel investigating a mass shooting by a reservist who was experiencing a psychiatric breakdown that there are limitations in health care coverage for reservists compared with full-time soldiers.

There are no Army hospitals in New England, and reservists generally don’t qualify for care through Veterans Administration hospitals, so they are likely to use private health care — but such providers are barred from sharing information with the Army command structure without a patient's permission, said Col. Mark Ochoa, command surgeon from the U.S. Army Reserve Command, which oversees the Psychological Health Program.

Gaps in communication could leave the commander who bears ultimate responsibility for the safety and well-being of soldiers without a full picture of their overall health, his testimony suggested.

Ochoa couldn’t speak to the specifics of the 40-year-old gunman, Robert Card, who killed 18 people and injured 13 others in October in Lewiston, but he gave an overview of services available to soldiers and their families in a crisis.

While there are extensive services available, the Psychological Health Program cannot mandate that a reservist get treatment — only a commander can do that — and Ochoa noted that there can be communication breakdowns. He also acknowledged that soldiers are sometimes reluctant to seek treatment for fear that a record of mental health treatment will hurt their careers.

“Hopefully we’ve demonstrated to the public and to ourselves that this is a complicated and complex process,” Daniel Wathen, the commission’s chair and a former chief justice for the state, said when the session concluded.

The independent commission established by the governor is investigating facts surrounding the shooting at a bowling alley and at a bar and grill. Card’s body was found two days after the shooting. An autopsy concluded he died by suicide.

The gunman’s family and fellow Army reservists told police Card was suffering from growing paranoia in the months leading up to the shooting. He was hospitalized during a psychiatric breakdown at a military training last summer in upstate New York. One reservist, Sean Hodgson, told superiors in September, a few weeks before the attacks: “I believe he’s going to snap and do a mass shooting.”

In the aftermath, the state Legislature passed new gun laws that bolstered Maine's “yellow flag” law, which criminalized the transfer of guns to people prohibited from ownership and expanded funding for mental health crisis care.

The commission intends to release its final report this summer.

In a preliminary report, the panel was critical of the police handling of removal of Card’s weapons. It faulted police for giving Card’s family the responsibility to take away his weapons — concluding police should have handled the matter — and said police had authority under the yellow flag law to take him into protective custody.

Mental health experts have said most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.

FILE - A woman visits a makeshift memorial outside Sparetime Bowling Alley, the site of a mass shooting, Oct. 28, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. Army heath expert, Col. Mark Ochoa, reported to a panel investigating the mass shooting on Thursday, June 13, 2024, that there are limitations in health care coverage for reservists compared to full-time soldiers. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

FILE - A woman visits a makeshift memorial outside Sparetime Bowling Alley, the site of a mass shooting, Oct. 28, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. Army heath expert, Col. Mark Ochoa, reported to a panel investigating the mass shooting on Thursday, June 13, 2024, that there are limitations in health care coverage for reservists compared to full-time soldiers. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — This year, Ukraine’s largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Instead, the country’s most beloved local artists graced the stage this past weekend at the Atlas Festival. The stage was erected on a shopping mall parking lot, the only option that contained a shelter large enough to contain the 25,000 people that that organizers expected in the event of an air raid.

Carefree youth rubbed shoulders with hardened military commanders and famous singers who crooned songs imbued with national pride. Music was the main draw, yes, but so was shattering the illusion that the capital is invulnerable to the bloody battles playing out hundreds of miles away.

“Such kind of festivals can’t be separated from the life of the country. The country is at war. The core issues here should relate to the war,” said Vsevolod Kozhemyako, a businessman and one of the founders of the 13th “Khartia” Brigade, now a part of Ukraine’s National Guard and defending the frontline in Kharkiv.

“People who are still young and who don’t join (the fight) should understand that they cannot live in a bubble,” he said.

And yet, a bubble is precisely how it feels to be in Kyiv, as the war approaches its third year. While Ukrainian soldiers are killed and wounded everyday along the snaking 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) frontline in the east, the capital is a contrast with its bars and clubs filled with patrons.

Every so often, Kyiv comes face to face with the war. Last week, a barrage of Russian missiles destroyed a children’s hospital and a private clinic, in one of the deadliest attacks since the full-scale invasion. Residents have grappled with power cuts caused by Moscow’s targeted destruction of Ukrainian energy generation at the height of a summer heat wave.

At every corner of the music festival - the first time it was held since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022 - visitors were confronted with the inescapable reality that theirs is a country trapped in a bloody war of attrition. Festival organizers hoped to raise $2.2 million (2 million euros) to help soldiers purchase supplies on the front line.

In the mall’s basement parking lot, various military units, from Khartia to the 3rd Assault, offered interactive games to lure donations, and possible recruits. First-person shooter game offered visitors a chance to improve target practice by gunning down shadowy virtual infantrymen. At another corner, medics brandished severed plastic limbs and offered emergency medical training.

The festival concluded Sunday with a much-anticipated performance from Serhii Zhadan and his band Zhadan and Dogs. Zhadan, a celebrated artist dubbed the poet of the Donbas, himself recently joined Khartia.

“It’s just a small break, an opportunity to take a breath,” said Zhadan, minutes before the crowd roared before he took to the stage. “The most important things, they are happening over there, at the frontline.”

On stage, Zhadan starts with one of his most beloved songs “Malvi” or “Mallow.” The crowd sings along with him, word for word. “But what can you do with my hot blood,” they chant as one mass chorus. “Who will come at us.”

18-year old Viktoriia Khalis was excited to see his performance, she said. She had been to the Atlas music festival once before in 2021. The difference is stark, she said.

“The main thing that has changed, unfortunately, now the festival is connected with donations,” she said. But she also feels more connected to her homeland, somehow. “I feel this entire crowd is related to me. I feel unity.”

She was scared there would be another Russian air attack – a music festival with thousands of attendees would be a prime target – but said she couldn’t miss a chance to see her favorite artists.

For Nadiia Dorofeeva, one of Ukraine’s most famous singers, every concert feels different. “Before, when I entered a stage I was thinking only about if I looked good, sang well and if the people got what they came for. But now, I dream of having no air alarms, I am seeing how people cry at my concerts.”

One of Dorofeeva’s songs, “WhatsApp” is about a girl waiting for her beloved to return from war. “She washed the phone with tears/Like rainy glass,” often moves listeners to tears.

Among the attendees was Lt. Gen. Serhii Naiev, an assistant deputy chief in Ukraine’s General Staff.

“There are well known artists on stage, they are performing their concerts and there are a lot of Ukrainians around who are donating their money, much needed money for the armed forces of Ukraine,” he said.

“We understand that our partners are supporting us, but we also understand that we could do a lot by ourselves, to be stronger,” he said.

Follow AP's coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Serhii Zhadan, well-known Ukrainian writer and poet, leader of music band Zhadan and Dogs, performs at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

Serhii Zhadan, well-known Ukrainian writer and poet, leader of music band Zhadan and Dogs, performs at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People with painted faces go to the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People with painted faces go to the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People dance waiting for the start of the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People dance waiting for the start of the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

Serhii Zhadan, well-known Ukrainian writer and poet, leader of music band Zhadan and Dogs, performs at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

Serhii Zhadan, well-known Ukrainian writer and poet, leader of music band Zhadan and Dogs, performs at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

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