Gov. Gavin Newsom OKs expansion of Laura’s Law throughout California
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed Assembly Bill 1976, which removes the expiration date of Laura’s Law — a state law that allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for the mentally ill.
The bill also makes implementing Laura’s Law the default for counties.
Laura’s Law was named after Nevada County student Laura Wilcox, who was shot and killed in 2001 by Scott Thorpe. Laura’s parents, Nick and Amanda Wilcox, were instrumental in the passage of the state law that allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for the mentally ill.
Amanda Wilcox said Friday that removal of the law’s “sunset clause” was “something we have wanted for years.”
“Laura’s Law is the first policy that Nick and I worked on after Laura’s death,” Amanda Wilcox said in an email. “We are gratified that hurdles to implementing the law across the state have finally been removed and more individuals with serious mental illness will receive the benefits of needed treatment.”
The bill had unanimous support through the legislative process, she said, adding that Nick spoke at both the Assembly and Senate Health Committee hearings.
“Our daughter, Laura, was a victim in a rampage shooting perpetrated by a man with severe untreated mental illness,” Nick Wilcox testified. “We understood early on that many with severe mental illness do not recognize or acknowledge their condition and therefore do not engage in treatment. Laura’s Law was an attempt to create a legal structure and a treatment program to engage such individuals.”
Nick Wilcox noted Laura’s Law originally had a five-year sunset clause, which has been extended on three separate occasions. Nevada County was the first to fully implement Laura’s Law in 2008 and since then, many counties have followed suit, he said.
“The goal of Laura’s Law is not to be punitive, but to engage people in long-term treatment so that they may start on the road to recovery,” Nick Wilcox continued. “We believe that Laura’s Law has now proven itself and that the time has come to make it permanent and make it available to even more Californians.”
Newsom on Friday signed other bills to help close gaps in behavioral health care, including Senate Bill 855, which requires health plans and insurers to cover medically necessary treatment for all mental health and substance use disorders; and SB 803, which supports statewide standards for behavioral health peer support specialists and adds these services as an option in Medi-Cal.
“The bills I am signing today will help Californians access the behavioral health services they need to recover,” Newsom said in a Friday press release. “Earlier this year, I pledged to put these critical services within reach of more Californians, through reforming our Mental Health Services Act and laws that allow loved ones and service providers to ask courts to compel those who need treatment into community-based outpatient care. Today, we do just that.”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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