Ronald Reagan is more to blame for the shooting in Tuscon than Sarah Palin (of course, it's a simplification to blame any one person). Still, Ronald Reagan did more to dismantle America's mental health system than anyone else. Although he promised adequate "community care" in its place, a system of outpatient facilities capable of handling the country's mental health burden never materialized.
In my opinion, at least two things necessary for adequate reform:
1) A bigger budget for mental health care services. This is probably unrealistic given the deficit and the economy. But I wonder if teaching children emotional resilience at an early age could help reduce the burden (and expense) of treating mental illness later on. Also, families need to get sick loved ones into care much sooner, since early intervention improves the prognosis of most mental illnesses. A great example of a program teaching kids emotional resilience skills is Project Happiness.
2) Changes to the legal criteria for involuntary treatment or commitment. There's a fine line between providing psychiatric treatment and harming civil liberties, but it's a line that we need to look at more closely. In the following MSNBC interview a forensic psychologist discusses the need to loosen the legal criteria for involuntary commitment. Currently, only people who are seriously at risk of harming themselves or others (for instance, as he notes, people who have waived a gun at someone over the last 24 hours) can be held. He thinks that courts should also consider what doctors call "insight" when deciding whether to commit someone. Those patients who lack insight into their illness (i.e don't believe they are sick) should be easier to commit.
The Dr. also makes the point that the main reason for getting the mentally ill into treatment is because they are suffering, not because they are dangerous. This suffering is undeserved and thwarts many people with mental illness from reaching their full potential.
Plus, as one commentator points out, a higher percentage of intoxicated people commit violent acts than people with mental illness. In fact, the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of crime (given their vulnerability) than perpetrators of crime.