Monday, September 29, 2008

Sacramento Bee Gets it Half Right

In a Sept. 28, 2008 editorial, the well respected Sacrament Bee urges the county and the state to fully fund programs for people with mental illness, especially the homeless.  The editorial comes in the wake of a tragedy in which Frank Perez was shot by a homeless woman with an untreated mental illness. 

“She is an extreme example of what can happen when mentally ill homeless people are left untreated,” writes the Bee.  “Most aren't packing guns. In fact, they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Still, there is a huge public cost to ignoring them.”

The Bee continues to hit the bull’s eye of the problem.

“Too many end up begging on streets and sleeping in doorways. They turn up at hospital emergency rooms, in jails and in prison. In the end, treating mental illness is far less costly for the public, for the homeless and for rare victims like Frank Perez.”

The paper starts down the road for a solution.  In 2004, California voters passed Proposition 63 calling for a tax on the wealthy to ensure programs for people with mental illness didn’t face budget cuts.  Unfortunately, it has been ignored and the Bee is 100 percent correct in pointing out this failure. 

That’s, however, only half of the problem.  Sacramento County as well as the state’s other counties need to enact Laura’s Law.  This law, left up to each county to put in place, would provide assisted outpatient treatment for people with mental illness.  Laura’s Law will increase the cost effectiveness of treatment that the Bee so rightly identifies and—most importantly—it will save lives.