Laura's Law Advocate Objects to Plan

by David Gorn

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The Assembly Committee on Health on Tuesday approved a proposal designed to change the way some counties handle people who are having a mental health crisis.

"Consumers, mental health professionals, law enforcement and others are working side-by-side developing ways to de-escalate crisis situations, while reaching out to consumers and providing much-needed mental health services," said Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata), author of AB 2134.

"This bill simply tells counties to have a best practice in place for crisis response before proceeding with the countywide involuntary treatment program," Chesbro said. "It's that simple."

But according to Randall Hagar, director of governmental affairs at the California Psychiatric Association, it's not that simple.

Hagar said the bill only applies to counties that implement the Laura's Law model, a state law that allows counties to order mental health patients to enter outpatient treatment facilities, or to mandate that those patients take their anti-psychotic drugs.

"This bill before you …. does not solve a problem we have in the community," Hagar said. "I could understand it if we wanted to make sure all counties had good crisis intervention components in their system of care and their continuum of services, but this is only about Laura's Law prospective counties."

Hagar added that California's mental health system has been trying to reduce crisis intervention and services -- and he said AB 2134 increases them.

"So I think this bill is running counter to the way that our current system is going," Hagar said, "which is more towards a public health model, where primary interventions are featured and supported and incentivized, and I don't think this bill does that."

Chesbro said the bill increases public safety by helping law enforcement officers deal with mental health crisis situations in innovative and humane ways -- by "de-escalating" them, he said.

"Things like crisis intervention teams, mobile crisis teams and psychiatric emergency response teams make outpatient programs not only unnecessary, but save the state much-needed money," Chesbro said.

The bill passed with 11 aye votes, and now heads to the Assembly floor.


















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