Task Force Calls for Overhaul of California Mental Health Law

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A task force is recommending an overhaul of a California law governing the involuntary commitment of residents to psychiatric hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reports (Romney, Los Angeles Times, 4/8).

Report Findings

In March, the task force -- the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition -- released a report suggesting that the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act does not provide adequate access to treatment for people with the most severe mental illnesses.

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 law.

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.

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 (California Healthline, 3/19).

Proposed Changes

The coalition is calling for several changes to the law, including:

  • Allowing involuntary commitment of people deemed incapable of making their own decisions about mental health treatment;
  • Expanding the use of conservatorships;
  • Lengthening involuntary hospital stays; and
  • Standardizing how the law is applied across different counties.

Consensus in Question

According to the Times, many of the changes being sought by the task force likely will receive broad consensus among lawmakers, such as standardization of the law's implementation across the state. However, proposals to broaden the terms of involuntary commitment and conservatorship likely will prompt debate (Los Angeles Times, 4/8).


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