County straitjacketed on mental health funding |

County straitjacketed on mental health funding

On reading your article on the subject of Laura’s Law (“Care of mentally ill a struggle for county,” Jan. 13), I felt a need to clarify my position.

It needs to be understood that the law has very limited provision for redirection of money for this program. Specifically, it prohibits counties from reducing any voluntary program to fund a Laura’s Law program. This means that funding for it must either be redirected from other involuntary services, or be new money.

The only involuntary programs that we now use are acute inpatient services, commonly referred to as 5150s and long-term locked care for very seriously ill patients. Conservatively, it would cost at least $250,000 per year to mount a Laura’s Law program.

Last year, we spent just over $200,000 for all acute inpatient service. We spent just over $400,000 for long-term locked care. I have no reason to believe that either of these could be significantly reduced by implementation of a Laura’s Law program.

In an early form, AB 1421 (Laura’s Law) included grant money to support implementation. The Board of Supervisors and I supported this version of the bill. The funding was later stripped from the bill, due to the well-known state fiscal problem. There is no state grant money for this program. I have no reason to believe that there is any private or federal grant money applicable to it.

Thus, my only alternative would be to ask the Board of Supervisors for an additional $250,000 in County General Fund support to fund this program.

On its own initiative, the board has added approximately $80,000 of County General Fund monies to our budget in the current fiscal year. This is in addition to the amount required by state law. This clearly demonstrates the board’s commitment to mental health services in this county.

Given the other demands and issues to be faced by this board, it would not be responsible or appropriate for me to ask them for another $250,000 per year in ongoing support for this program.

Robert Erickson,


Behavioral Health Director

Nevada County

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