SACRAMENTO — Legislation designed to make it simpler for county mental hospitals to hold patients against their will won easy passage Thursday in the Assembly and was sent to the Senate.
The measure, carried by Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) on behalf of Los Angeles County, would allow counties to hold mentally ill patients for an extra 30 days--47 in all--without beginning the Superior Court process that can lead to appointment of a guardian for the patient.
County officials sought the measure, which will apply to all patients with psychiatric illnesses, as a way of keeping the mentally ill homeless off the streets.
The Assembly approved the bill on a vote of 75 to 1 after most of the opposition to the measure was removed by amendments.
As introduced, the bill would have had the effect of allowing county hospitals to hold patients for up to 77 days without a court hearing. The legislation also would have allowed counties to hold patients against their will for part of that time in out-patient centers instead of only in hospitals.
Those provisions were stripped from the bill by the Ways and Means Committee after protests from patients' advocates and civil rights groups.
Author Will Negotiate
Allen said she will be negotiating with the bill's opponents while it is in the Senate in hopes of reinserting some of the deleted language.
The law now allows county mental hospitals to hold patients for three days without a hearing and an additional 14 days if they are judged to be a danger to themselves or others, or gravely 1684632417alcoholism. If counties want to hold patients longer than 17 days, in most cases they must apply for a court-ordered conservator for the patient.
But since the law allows counties to hold patients for an additional 30 days while that court process is pending, legislators and county officials acknowledged that counties often initiate the conservator process only as a way to legally hold the patients for those 30 days.
After 30 days, the patients are released and the conservator application is abandoned, officials said.
Under the bill approved Thursday, hospitals could hold patients for the extra 30-day period without initiating the conservator process.
If a conservator is needed, the Superior Court decision ordering one would have to be obtained by the end of the 30-day period.