Friday, October 05, 2007

California needs Laura's Law

Columnist, C.W. Nevius wrote about treating severe mental illnesses and outpatient committment in a recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

While the issue of the beds at S.F. General is important, there is a much larger issue. Across the country, and particularly in California, we need to take an honest look at the consequences of letting mentally ill people decide whether they want to accept treatment. Remember, in these cases their own parents are begging to have them confined to a safe, secure facility where they will have to take their medication and hopefully begin to find themselves. Leaving the choice up to them, as a consequence of patient rights movement, is a recipe for failure.

As Nevius explains, the current system isn't working:

Officer Martin, who walks a beat in downtown San Francisco, estimates that "six to seven out of 10 of our contacts have mental health issues." The police have limited recourse, even in the most extreme cases. One thing they can do is file a 5150 under the California welfare and institution penal code, which is a "72-hour psychiatric hold." But Martin says even that confinement is often "a pipe dream."

"There's been times when I've 5150'd somebody," he says, "and they'd be walking out when I was getting back into my patrol car."

And yet, most counties in California still haven't implemented Laura's Law. What are we waiting for?

Interested in getting Laura's Law implemented in your county? Visit the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition (CTAC) website for resources on implementation.

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