Future uncertain for Laura’s Law | TheUnion.com

Future uncertain for Laura’s Law

Without the money to make it work, the future looks dim for the mental health bill “Laura’s Law” – named for a slain Nevada County teen.

Nevada County Supervisors agreed Sept. 28 to support the bill if money became available, but tempers mounted Tuesday over whether the idea of taxing the rich to generate this money is the right solution.

Supervisors Peter Van Zant and Barbara Green proposed a resolution to support Proposition 63, which would provide the money to back Laura’s Law, which was passed by voters in 2002. It was designed in memory of Laura Wilcox, the victim of mental illness patient Scott Thorpe, who went on a shooting spree in 2001 that began where Wilcox worked at the county’s mental health office.

Laura’s Law, approved by Gov. Gray Davis two years ago, allows for those suffering from serious mental illness to seek treatment and support earlier through two programs: the involuntary Assisted Outpatient Treatment and the alternative Assertive Community Treatment.

The current ballot proposition would also provide a revenue stream for other programs for the mentally ill throughout California.

The proposition would place a 1 percent tax on personal income above $1 million, a solution Supervisor Sue Horne denounced by calling it a “well-intentioned, short-term fix and a long-term heartache.” Supervisor Robin Sutherland agreed, causing a split on the board and stalling the resolution.

On Nov. 2, California residents will be the ones to make the decision about whether it is wise to implement a tax on the 25,000 to 30,000 California residents who fall into the $1 million-plus category, thus generating an estimated $1.7 billion over the next three years. In Nevada County, the money could help an additional 300 to 500 patients, according to a letter by Van Zant and Green.

Horne said she strongly supports “Laura’s Law,” but questioned the stability of relying on a “volatile source of income.” She used the dot-com crash and the subsequent drop in the number of large incomes as an example to prove it would be unfair to make the mentally ill depend upon this money.

“What happens when the state has bad times?” she said.

For Amanda and Nick Wilcox, the parents of Laura, asking the rich to bear the financial cost is fair. “(We want) to remind you that our family certainly paid a far higher price,” Amanda Wilcox said.

Nick Wilcox said in the future if residents want to change the origin of the money, they can, but it was imperative to establish the priority to deal with mental health concerns throughout the state.

Sutherland said she grew up with a mentally ill family member and acknowledges the need for the state to pay for programs to aid those who are mentally ill. But the source is not appropriate, she said, and she believes it is better for California residents to share the burden even if it means a cost to jails and hospitals.

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