"Mental health professionals have begun to define the need for their services as infinite."

Governor Bill Owens

Following the Oklahoma bombing in 1995, the Federal Emergency Management Fund (FEMA) immediately funded $3.3 million for counseling 3,604 people and to assist 81,335 others in larger groups. A further $841,000 was given to "Project Heartland," which was created by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.18

In Colorado, $4.6 million was given in donations after the Columbine High School shooting that left 15 dead and 23 injured.19

But a year later, where had the money gone? The families of the slain victims in Columbine each received $50,000. Four students with spinal cord or brain injuries received $150,000 each, and the families of 21 other physically injured children got $10,000 each.20

Some $755,000 was given to Jefferson Center for Mental Health and $425,000 went to pay for nine full-time counselors for Columbine and other schools—almost the same amount that each of the grieving families of the slain victims received.21

Meanwhile, the lifetime medical expenses of some injured students had not been covered prompting one legislator, Don Lee, to introduce legislation that would ensure that funds went to "benefit the victims who suffered physical injuries." It was aimed at preventing "the sort of smorgasbord approach adopted" where more than $3.5 million was collected, but "a large portion" was diverted to "mental health and violence prevention programs and research."22


In 1999, Colorado mental health practitioners asked for a further $5.5 million in federal funds, of which $1.6 million would pay for counseling and other expenses. Governor Bill Owens said they "need to have their heads examined."23 Calling it ridiculous, he added, "Mental health professionals have begun to define the need for their services as infinite."24

The "experts" had determined that more than 21,500 people in just the high- and moderate-risk groups needed therapy, a figure that was roughly 10 times the total number of the entire student body and staff at Columbine.25

The source of this estimate was a claim that up to 44% of the people directly affected by the incident—the high-risk group—would be susceptible to PTSD "even after a decade." Add to this 25% who had "mild levels of impairment" and up to 20% who were a "moderate-risk group," and all were in need of counseling.26

As the Denver Rocky Mountain News summed it up, "Now, there are plenty of distressed people who have sought counseling in the wake of Columbine, and some may need it for a long time to come. But the idea that candidates for therapy number in the tens or even hundreds of thousands (20% of the moderate-risk group alone totals 71,808 Coloradians) simply stretches the definition of trauma into the realm of the absurd."27