State legislators hope to pry loose additional funding for behavioral health treatment in the upcoming session. Connecticut police believe gunman Adam Lanza suffered from mental health problems, including personality disorders.
"I would say we haven't done a great job funding mental health initiatives," Palumbo said. "We need to take a hard look to see if we can find more funds going forward."
Perdue said West Virginia has never funded mental health treatment at a "high-enough level."
"Behavioral health is a huge knot," Perdue said. "And we haven't done a good job of untying it."
Kessler said the state needs to spotlight "protection, education, detection and treatment."
"We need to have treatment early on so we don't see things escalate into a senseless tragedy," Kessler said.
David Clayman, a South Charleston psychologist, said behavioral health professionals and law enforcement authorities in West Virginia should sit down and talk about the Connecticut shooting.
"We have to find ways to address something like this without overreacting," Clayman said Tuesday. "It has to be a compassionate approach, but not Pollyannaish. Most mentally ill people don't kill."
A state legislative committee has spent the past year studying West Virginia's mental hygiene policies. Under state law, people involuntarily committed to a state mental hospital are prohibited from ever owning a firearm.
Some mental health commissioners have declined to commit people because of the gun ban, according to testimony at a hearing earlier this year.
State lawmakers expect the committee to recommend changes to the state's mental hygiene laws before the start of the upcoming legislative session.
"Here in West Virginia, we have in this past year grappled with issues of mental health and acts of violence," Thompson said. "I'm sure we will investigate how we can prevent lethal weapons from falling into the hands of the mentally ill."
House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said it would be best to wait before tossing out specific proposals in response to the Connecticut school shooting.
"We really need to step back. The country needs to mourn what happened," Armstead said. "It's too soon to say we're going to do this or that. After we step back, we can think thoughtfully about what policies need to be looked at."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.