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“It’s Time to Stop Ignoring Mental Illness Law”

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(Jan. 14, 2013) “We are the families of Laura Wilcox and Scott Thorpe.” With that, the parents of a young woman shot and killed by a man with untreated schizophrenia and the brother of the shooter raised their voices in a Sacramento Bee op-ed this weekend advocating for wider use of "Laura's Law" - the assisted outpatient treatment law named for victim Laura Wilcox ("It’s time to stop ignoring mental illness law," Jan. 13).

mentalillnesstreatmentlawAnd they are not the only ones who were in print urging lawmakers to embrace court-ordered outpatient treatment as a means of reducing mental illness-related tragedy.In Connecticut - home to the Newtown shootings and one of only six states without an AOT law – an editorial in the Register Citizen presses legislators to “take up the assisted outpatient treatment legislation again this year for the good of the mentally ill who reject treatment and the public’s safety,” (“Time to change the laws on mental health,” Jan. 13). 

Meanwhile, in New Mexico - one of the other six states without AOT – Ron Gurley, an advocate for improved mental health care called for passage of an assisted outpatient treatment law and expansion of public psychiatric beds (“Steps needed to prevent the next tragedy,” Las Cruces Sun News, Jan. 13).

At the Treatment Advocacy Center we have been saying this for years. While no law can completely end tragedy, implemented correctly assisted outpatient treatment will save lives and reduce the consequences of untreated severe mental illness.

What the Wilcoxes and Thorpes wrote applies to every state where involuntary outpatient treatment is not being used to help people with severe mental illness: “(W)e are missing an opportunity to use a good law, save money and save lives." As long as AOT goes unused, individuals "will remain caught in a revolving door due to the failures in treating mental illness. Sadly, family members of both the victims and of the mentally ill will continue to suffer."

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