County will be first to use mental health law
Senior Staff Writer
Nevada County will be the first in California to fully implement Laura’s Law, the state statute that would get involuntary care for those who refuse mental health treatment and are a danger to the community.
Only about five people in Nevada County per year would qualify for the involuntary treatment, according to Behavioral Health Director Michael Heggarty, because of strict eligibility requirements.
Although a bill introduced in the state legislature last week could relax requirements for that treatment, they remain strict for now, Heggarty said at the Board of Supervisors meeting this morning.
First, a petition would have to be filed with the county’s Superior Court to get an evaluation for a patient for possible placement. If the court approved the evaluation, a judge would make the decision whether it points to involuntary treatment or not.
The person would have to be 18 or older and have a history of “multiple incarcerations and or hospitalizations,” and refused treatment, Heggarty said.
About six other counties are looking to see how Nevada County will implement the law. It was named after Laura Wilcox, one of three county residents slain by mental health patient Scott Thorpe on Jan. 10, 2001.
Heggarty said he has been in contact with Orange County, and expects more phone calls and visits from the populous Southern California area’s representatives after the program begins April 1.
Several other counties are watching closely, but Heggarty said he was wary of naming them for the press without their approval and until they show more interest.
Nevada County had to implement Laura’s Law as part of its settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Wilcox family after the shootings.
Other counties fear implementing it could trigger lawsuits because its involuntary nature is highly controversial across the state and country.
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