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Laura’s Law Gains Momentum in California

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(June 26, 2013) Laura’s Law, California’s assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) law, will be implemented in Yolo County after its Board of Supervisors earlier this week unanimously approved the launch of a one-year pilot program for qualifying people with severe mental illness (“Supervisors OK Laura’s Law pilot program,” the Davis Enterprise, June 26).

laurawilcoxThe court-ordered outpatient treatment law enacted in 2002 only operates in counties where the county board of supervisors, by resolution, authorizes its use. Until Monday morning, only two California counties – Nevada and Los Angeles – had done so.

“Without assisted outpatient treatment...these individuals are simply part of a revolving door system, where they decompensate to the point where they are hospitalized or jailed, then are released, stop taking any medication they were on, and decompensate again,” Nevada County’s program director, Carol Stanchfield told the Yolo County supervisors.

The pilot program in Los Angeles County has already produced impressive outcomes, including a 78% reduction in incarceration and a 77% reduction in hospitalization among participants. The law also cut LA County taxpayer costs by 40%. Meanwhile, Nevada County estimates it saves taxpayers $1.82 for every $1 it spends on its program.

For individuals too ill to seek treatment themselves, mandatory community treatment is an essential boost onto the road to recovery. We can only hope the remaining 55 counties in California - and all the counties around the country that are under-using their state AOT laws - will follow Yolo’s example and implement this treatment option for the benefit of their most vulnerable citizens and their communities.

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