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Bill to Help Mentally Ill

February 13, 1988

In response to "Rule on Detaining Homeless Patients Passes Panel Test," Part I, Jan. 20:

The article emphasized that the bill, AB 2678 authored by Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) and sponsored by Los Angeles County, would permit detention of mentally ill without a court hearing. Actually, existing due process (unchanged in the Allen bill) requires that each person certified for intensive treatment be notified immediately of his or her right to petition a court for hearing.

Treatment facility staffs are also required to assist the patient to prepare and present the petition. Less than one in 10 now exercise that right. The administrative hearing granted each person without a petition is conducted by an independent hearing officer.

The bill would make no change in commitment criteria or in the due process procedure.

It addresses the clinical problem that selection of an effective medication and adjustment of its dosage schedule, often not possible within 17 days, may be achieved within less than 30 additional days.

The mandatory outpatient alternative to full hospitalization will permit a better transition to community treatment for suitable patients.

Successful community care, treatment and rehabilitation of persons with serious and prolonged mental illness requires access to effective, short-term, involuntary acute treatment.

Without organization and funding of coordinated involuntary and community services, the uncared for mentally ill will continue to swell the ranks of the jailed, the imprisoned and the homeless.

EDWARD R. HUTCHINSON

Fullerton

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