In 2002 the California Legislature passed Laura’s Law as a treatment option for those individuals with chronic and severe mental illness with repeated and recent hospitalizations, incarceration, and or documented acts or threats of serious violent behavior. The law provides for court ordered community based “assisted outpatient treatment” (AOT) to a small population of individuals who meet strict legal criteria and who do not seek voluntary mental health care as a result of their mental illness. Services under the law operate through a team.
The California law was named for Laura Wilcox, a victim of a Grass Valley, Nevada County, rampage shooting by a man with untreated schizophrenia. The law was modeled on the New York state Kendra’s Law, passed in 1999. Under Laura’s Law each county must formally opt into the law through county supervisors’ resolution and the appropriation of a support program. The law does not come with appropriated state financial support. The statute can only be utilized in counties that choose to enact outpatient commitment programs based on the measure. In 2004, Los Angeles County implemented Laura’s Law on a limited basis. Since the passage of the MHSA, Nevada County fully implemented Laura’s Law in May 2008 and several other counties are discussing it, notably San Francisco County, San Mateo County, San Diego County, Marin County and others.
Who Qualifies for Laura’s Law?
The law applies strictly only to those who meet the criteria below:
- An individual must be at least 18 years of age
- An individual must have serious mental illness; AND
- A recent history of hospitalization, incarceration, and acts, threats, or attempts of
- serious violent behavior
- Individual must have been hospitalized at least twice in the past 36 months or harmed themselves or another individual in the past 48 months
Keep in Mind:
- AOT does not physically restrain an individual or force “feed” medication. An individual may
- walk away, refusing to participate, but such non-compliance could result in a person being
- Laura’s Law has been voted down by counties for reasons related to start-up costs and effort
- in light of the precarious health of county governments and/or civil liberties issues.