Laura’s Law

Written by admin on June 14, 2010

As posted on Sacramento Press:

Blame it on a mental illness:

Did the hostage situation involving Anthony Alvarez and his 16-month-old cousin in Sacramento County on June 9 have to happen? Alvarez was mentally ill and not taking antipsychotic medication for his bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He was subsequently shot to death by the SWAT team and the little boy was rescued unharmed.

Have you heard of Kendra’s Law?

It was introduced in 1999 and is set to expire this month. New York Gov. George E. Pataki signed it into law after several violent incidents were committed by mentally ill people. The law is named after Kendra Webdale, who was killed in January 1999 after being pushed in front of a subway train by Andrew Goldstein, who was schizophrenic and not receiving proper treatment.

Kendra’s Law allows courts to order the seriously mentally ill to take medications that enable them to live safely in communities. When I first heard about forcing people with mental-health problems to take their medication, I was alarmed. What if that person were misdiagnosed and on the wrong medication? But after researching the law, I reconsidered.

Some of its criteria are as follows:

The person must be at least 18 and diagnosed with a severe mental illness by a doctor. It must be determined that he or she is unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, has a history of noncompliance with mental-health treatment and exhibits violent tendencies. In addition, the mentally ill person must be considered likely to relapse without Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) .

Researchers who conducted a face-to-face study with 76 OAT recipients found that 75 percent reported that AOT helped them gain control over their lives; 81 percent said it helped them to stay well; and 90 percent said the treatment made them more likely to take their medication and keep mental- health appointments.

If a person who has been court ordered to comply with Assisted Outpatient Treatment does not adhere to the criteria, he or she may be placed involuntarily in a psychiatric hospital for 72 hours.

Although Kendra’s Law or some form of it has been adopted by 44 states, not all states readily enforce it or have the funds to administer it. California has Laura’s Law, which is modeled after Kendra’s Law. Assembly Bill 1421, Laura’s Law, passed in 2002 and was signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis. The law was named after Laura Wilcox, a 19-year-old college student who was shot to death by a mental patient, Scott Harlan Thorpe, who refused treatment. The problem with this law is that it did not include state funds and the decision to implement it rests with counties. In 2004, only Los Angeles County had adopted Laura’s Law. With the California budget as tight as it is now, the law is powerless. Moreover, the County Board of Supervisors must determine that implementing the law will not reduce voluntary services. This doesn’t make sense, since voluntary services, such as those in several Sacramento County mental health clinics, are being closed.

I think if Alvarez had been in an Assisted Outpatient Treatment program, he still might have been alive.

 

A person based on clinical history must meet the criteria mentioned above as well as be a danger to himself or others and considered gravely disabled (unable to care for himself….for example be without food and shelter).   A court hearing determines if the criteria is met and the court decides if the person is eligible for Assisted Outpatient Treatment .

 

Unfortunately, Laura’s Law needs funding to be enforced.

 

Since this is a County issue you can write a letter to your representative in the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors… Go to Sacramento County Board of Supervisors,  www.bos.saccounty.net on the right upperside of the page click on “Departments” then under the heading of “Need Help” click on “Contact us” It will ask you to enter your street number and street name and it will direct you to your representative.

 

OR

 

You can go to a Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Meeting at

 

County Administration Center

700 H. street  RM 1450

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Meetings are held every Tuesday and the 2nd and fourth Wednesday at 9:30am (excluding holidays) and on the 2nd Wednesday the board also meets at 6:00pm. 

 

Citizens are encouraged to attend. In order for Laura’s Law to be reinforced people need to voice their opinions!

Written by Sherrie Tyler

 

 




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