Friday, October 17, 2008

Every Brother, Everyone Deserves Better

The national policy of blind indifference toward mental illness and the homeless took an ugly turn last week in Los Angeles. 

That was when John Robert McGraham was doused with gasoline and set into a flaming death.  Police still have no information as to who set the 55-year-old homeless man with severe depression on fire.  Perhaps, California should look toward our outdated policies as the killer.

It is a series of bad policies that left McGraham to the dangers of the streets instead of receiving the benefits of treatment.  He was a helpless victim.  There is a long list of things that could be handled better, but let’s focus on one solution within grasp of policy makers to fix.  Los Angeles—and every county—needs to implement Laura’s Law now. 

Laura’s Law would bring assisted outpatient treatment to people like McGraham who had family members trying to help, but because of a symptom his own illness, he was refusing or not staying on treatment.  The state passed Laura’s Law years ago and left it up to each county to implement.  Unfortunately, only one county in the state has put this important measure in place.     

McGraham was a brother, an uncle, a real person.  A person who deserved better.  A person who had a family trying to help.  The least California can do is to fix the law from standing in the way of timely treatment.