Governor signs Laura’s Law
SACRAMENTO – Gov. Gray Davis signed legislation Saturday that will allow courts to order the mentally ill into outpatient treatment, a step supporters believe will avoid cycles of neglect and violence.
”Our hope is that it will save lives,” said Nick Wilcox, the father of a 19-year-old woman who was killed by a mental patient last year in Nevada City.
The bill allows courts in counties that agree to participate to order people with serious mental illnesses and a ”history of needing to be helped” into outpatient programs with a ”whole list of services,” said the measure’s author, Assemblywoman Helen Thomson, D-Davis.
She said even though the bill contains no money to cover treatment costs ”there are a number of counties that are lining up to participate.”
Supporters said they hope the measure will prevent the mentally ill from bouncing from temporary hospitalization to the streets and then possibly into jail or prison.
”This is a critical step in helping the seriously mentally ill as well as their families,” Davis said in a statement. ”This legislation will help end the cycle of hospitalization, quitting treatment and relapse. It plugs a huge hole in California’s safety net”
Joseph Santoro, the recently retired chief of the Monrovia Police Department, said jails have become ”the largest mental health provider in the nation. We in law enforcement say, ‘How the heck did that happen?”’
”The back seat of a police car is not an appropriate treatment facility,” Barry Perrou, a former sergeant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, added in a conference call set up to announce the signing of the bill.
”These people that this bill will address have to be recognized first as human beings.”
Carla Jacobs, a member of the board of directors of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said most mentally ill people comply when ordered into treatment.
— Read the bill, AB 1421, at http://www.assembly.ca.gov.
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