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L.A. County backs bills on outpatient mental health treatment

L.A. County supervisors are supporting five state bills that would help counties create court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment programs.

March 18, 2013|By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times
  • A Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors resolution directs the county’s chief executive and legislative advocates to get behind five new state bills that would make it easier for counties to secure “mental health treatment for those who refuse to get help on their own.” The resolution was authored by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, above.
A Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors resolution directs the county’s… (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles…)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has thrown its weight behind Laura's Law — which allows counties to create court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment for the severely ill who have cycled through hospitals or jails and refused voluntary care — saying in a resolution that such programs have been shown to "significantly reduce" homelessness, hospitalization and arrest.

The resolution, authored by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, directs the county's chief executive and legislative advocates to get behind five new state bills that would make it easier for counties to create such programs and secure "mental health treatment for those who refuse to get help on their own."

The back story: State lawmakers passed Laura's Law, patterned after New York state's Kendra's Law but which came with no funding, in 2002. It also required approval by each county board of supervisors. Since then, only Nevada County, where the law's namesake, Laura Wilcox, was shot to death by a mental health client who had begun refusing treatment, has implemented such a program.

That county agreed to do so under a civil settlement with Laura's parents, Nick and Amanda Wilcox. It has since been hailed by Nevada County's civil grand jury as a model and long-term cost saver. But opposition statewide by advocates opposed to involuntary care has kept it from spreading. (At Antonovich's urging, Los Angeles County implemented a pilot program that offers the same intensive treatment required under Laura's Law, but it does not rely on involuntary court orders.)

The bills backed by the resolution passed Tuesday would clarify that counties can use existing revenue as well as Proposition 63 revenue — generated by the so-called millionaires tax passed by voters in 2004 — for Laura's Law, eliminate the need for board of supervisors approval, expand the period of court-ordered treatment from six months to a year and add those treated under Laura's Law to the database of people prohibited from owning firearms.

DJ Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org, which backs such programs, said that although he applauds support for the state bills, "the first thing L.A. County supervisors should do is expand the program that they have and make it serve people who refuse treatment."

lee.romney@latimes.com

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