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Loring Park grocery worker’s murder reignites call to state legislature for mental health resources

Loring Park grocery worker’s murder reignites call to state legislature for mental health resources

LORING PARK, Minn. — Friday marks three weeks since a beloved member of the Loring Park community was brutally killed inside a grocery store.

At a memorial Thursday night, Robert Skafte’s friends and family shared a petition to bring more attention to mental health issues, like the one Skafte’s alleged murderer has. They said that he would have wanted something positive to come out of his death.

“He would want the world to know that it’s okay to seek treatment for mental illness and he would want everyone who’s struggling to have somewhere to go,” said friend Joshua Eidem.

Court records show that the man charged with Skafte’s murder — 44-year old Taylor Schulz — was committed nearly three years ago, treated for psychosis and schizophrenia. He told staff he was fearful his hallucinations would tell him to hurt someone and he would follow through.

“The way our laws are set up, until he really was at that point that he was a danger to self or others, there wasn’t anything that could have been done,” said Sue Abderholden, the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota. 

She says it’s possible nothing was done between Schulz’s commitment in January 2021and the brutal attack three weeks ago. 

“Unfortunately, a law that we had passed in 2020 has not yet been implemented with funding, which I think, I hope could have maybe helped,” Abderholden added. “Someone could call the county and say, I’m worried about my loved one. And they would send someone out — perhaps a peer specialist to actually work to engage that person in treatment for 90 days. So it’s not just a one and done, ‘I’m sorry, they don’t want treatment. There’s nothing I can do.’ It’s actually working to engage them in treatment.”

Despite a $17 billion surplus last year, Abderholden says the legislature didn’t allocate the $1 million requested. This coming session, she’s asking for $2 million because the need has increased.

“Imagine if we actually intervened early with intensity, we can make sure that these these serious illnesses aren’t disabling,” she said.

Abderholden says it’s important to remember that violence from people with mental illness is rare — and to not be afraid to report symptoms you see in yourself or others.