We need laws to help people like John Rush

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The enormous outpouring of sympathy for fallen K-9 Officer Rocco is understandable. He carried out his duties with courage at the cost of his life and deserves his honors. Less understandable is the fever pitch of public outrage against his attacker John Rush. Public outcry has influenced Pennsylvania lawmakers to call for stiffer penalties for harming a K-9 officer.

I find the vituperation aimed at Mr. Rush disturbing in light of what we know about him (see the PG’s Feb. 1 story “Stabbing Suspect Has Extensive Record, Troubled Background”). Mr. Rush has a mental illness, having been diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia in his adolescence. He has spent time in Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and in jail. He had no one to encourage him to take his meds and no permanent place to live. Eventually he was able to find a job and did well until he lost it and “fell off the grid.”

Medical care, housing and work are the necessary elements of a stable life. Too often they are denied to the mentally ill by our inadequate system of treating them. Most mentally ill people pose no threat to us. Without appropriate help, however, some become John Rush, and society pays the cost.

Instead of sponsoring legislation to more harshly punish those who harm K-9 officers, our state senators should introduce legislation akin to U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy’s “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis” bill. We need to change the way we treat the mentally ill.

Instead of “Rocco’s Law” we need “Rush’s Law.”

Upper St. Clair

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