Monday, September 08, 2008

How Many More Names Will it Take?

New York has Kendra’s Law, California has Laura’s Law, Michigan has Kevin’s Law, and Louisiana has Nicola’s Law.  Those are just a handful of state that have passed assisted outpatient treatment laws to help people with severe mental illnesses after a tragedy sparked lawmakers into action.  A number of other states, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and others have witnessed preventable tragedies and have pending legislation to reform their mental health treatment laws.

The question is:  How more names have to be added before a state acts?

This question was recently posed by New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor.

“Will some unfortunate New Hampshire resident,” writes the paper, “have a similar law named for her? If the state's mental health system continues to be starved for resources and the state's laws governing involuntary commitment aren't revised to better balance civil liberties with public safety, it's a distinct possibility.”

Thinking before another tragedy occurs is the right course of action. 

As the Concord Monitor added, “The state's prisons and its county jails are packed with people whose crimes might have been averted had they received good mental health care. Most of those inmates will return to society, and some, given the state of the law and New Hampshire's mental health system, will pose a serious danger to the public. The Legislature shouldn't wait for a victim who can give a name to the new law before acting.”

There is no time to act like the present.