Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Using Laura's Law in California

Too many times we are reminded that having laws on the books providing for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) does not necessarily translate into the actual use of the treatment mechanism.

In California, Laura’s Law was passed in 2002, offering every county the opportunity to adopt an AOT program. In Los Angeles, a small pilot program was implemented soon after the law was enacted and has been helping a few dozens of people with severe mental illnesses each year. California’s first county-wide program will soon start in Nevada County. However, so far, Laura’s Law has not yet been implemented anywhere else in the state.

This is largely because the initial bill was saddled with limitations by opponents during the legislative process. Laura’s Law now provides that it is up to each county to decide whether or not to implement the law and to establish a program for it. Among other cumbersome restrictions, the law also requires a finding at the county level that no voluntary mental health program will be reduced as a result of adopting an AOT program, that AOT can only be used in conjunction with an extremely costly and often unnecessary outpatient service program and that counties must have very high thresholds of general services, most of which are unrelated to the use of AOT.

Thankfully, Senator Leland Yee from San Francisco has recently introduced SB 1606 that aims to remove many of the limitations included in the initial law. If passed, this law will make the treatment tool available in all counties throughout California.

Labels: , ,