Los Angeles Readies Itself to Implement Laura’s Law

As previously reported, Los Angeles County leaders voted in July to fully implement Laura’s Law (AB 1421), a state statute that gives counties the option to pursue court-ordered outpatient treatment for people with serious mental illness. Los Angeles County launched a small outpatient treatment program soon after Laura’s Law took effect in 2003, but that program was purely voluntary. Now, the supervisors voted 4 to 0, with Don Knabe absent, to expand the existing outpatient treatment program from 20 to 300 slots and create a team that will reach out to potential patients and manage the court filing process when necessary.

Once implemented, which will take place over the foreseeable weeks, Laura’s Law will:

  • Permit people who are severely disabled by mental illness–and currently caught in a revolving door of homelessness, incarceration, and hospitalization–to receive timely, continuous, and supervised treatment in the community.
  • Safeguard the public and the person, by allowing families and mental health professionals to petition for “assisted outpatient treatment” for individuals incapacitated by mental illness before they become a danger to themselves or others.
  • Protect the rights of the individual by requiring court approval of the petition to provide “assisted outpatient treatment” to assure that it is applied only to those who are so severely disabled by mental illness that they are unable to stay in treatment without help and supervision.
  • Authorize “assisted outpatient treatment” orders lasting up to 180 days and, when appropriate, the renewal of them.
    Provide those under orders with intensive, supervised mental health treatment in the community until they are capable of maintaining their own psychiatric care and recovery
  • Reduce county expenditures on law enforcement interaction, judicial, jail, and crisis services.

There have been positive results in a growing number of counties in California. If you are concerned or interested in how Laura’s Law will actually function, you can see a Functional Outline of the law by CLICKING HERE.

What is Laura’s Law?

The standard California state route marker con...

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.

Background

Marin County line on the Golden Gate Bridge

Marin County line on the Golden Gate Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 CountySan Mateo CountySan Diego CountyMarin 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
  • hospitalized.
  • 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.