Report Calls for Reforming Calif.'s Mental Health Treatment Law

TOPIC ALERT:

On Sunday, the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition released a report suggesting that a state mental health law does not provide adequate access to treatment for people with the most severe mental illnesses, KPCC's "KPCC News" reports.

The report was compiled by physicians, lawyers, judges, mental health care workers and patients over the course of 30 months.

Details of the Report

The report found that Californians with severe mental health conditions are four times more likely to be in jail than in a hospital or outpatient clinic that provides appropriate services.

The authors provided 14 recommendations for changing the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which was intended to help residents with mental illnesses acquire care in their communities.

The report states, "The primary recommendation of the task force is to develop a system that deals with the reality of the setting of mental health treatment right now."

It recommends that every California county enact Laura's Law, which provides court-ordered outpatient treatment for people with mental illnesses who do not realize they require care. Only Nevada County has fully implemented the law (O'Neill, "KPCC News," KPCC, 3/18).

Extending Laura's Law

Laura's Law is set to expire at the end of this year, but Assembly member Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa) has introduced a bill (AB 1569) that would extend the law until 2018.

John Moorlach -- a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors -- said the bill should include language about funding and capping the number of patients treated under the law.

He said that most counties do not use the law because they lack necessary funding, noting that Nevada County uses funding from Proposition 63 -- the Mental Health Services Act -- to pay for patients to get care under the law.

Moorlach said that AB 1569 should specify that Prop. 63 funds can go toward implementing Laura's Law (Joseph, "Tax Dollars," Orange County Register, 3/16).

Editorial Coverage

A Sacramento Bee editorial states that mental health advocates' push to overhaul the state's mental health laws "ought to be taken seriously by legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown (D)."

According to the editorial, the problem of untreated severe mental illness commonly is "ignored, manifesting itself as it does in homelessness, suicide, early death and petty crime" (Sacramento Bee, 3/18).


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