The California Legislature and Governor Brown put an end to the argument there’s no funding for Laura’s Law in California recently when SB 585 became law. The new law clarifies that the state’s Mental Health Services Act funds may be used to pay for assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) programs.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Contact your county supervisors and tell them the time to implement Laura's Law is now.
"Laura's Law" is a state law that provides community-based, assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) to a small population of individuals who meet strict legal criteria and who – as a result of their mental illness – are unable to access community mental health services voluntarily. It was passed by the California legislature in 2002 and signed by Gov. Gray Davis. The law is named for Laura Wilcox (pictured), who was shot and killed at the age of 19 by a man with untreated severe mental illness.
Mental Health Services Act funds MAY be used to fund Laura's Law. To find out why, read our "Mental Health Services Act and Funding AB 1421 implementation" memo to the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
For one California county’s experience reducing the consequences of non-treatment for severe mental illness and saving taxpayer money while doing it, read the Nevada County story or watch their video on YouTube.
Laura's Law Extended! The governor's signature on AB 1569 means authority in the Laura's Law statute for a county to operate, establish or continue a program of Assisted Outpatient Treatment, which was due under the current law to expire on December 31 of this year, has been extended until December 31, 2017.
A package of guest columns and information from the San Francisco Chronicle "Insight" section provides timely and powerful tools for advocates anywhere to use in making the argument that assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) needs to be implemented.
To read the articles or print a PDF copy to use in urging implementation of Laura's Law, click on a title below:
- "Law a matter of life and death" - a guest commentary by Treatment Advocacy Center board member Carla Jacobs and California advocate Kristina Ragosta
- "Extend Laura's Law - then put it to work" - the San Francisco Chronical editorial on treating mental illness
- "A major reform of state treatment" - a short history of Laura's Law
- "Revolving door tragedies" - sample preventable tragedies from 2011-2012 associated with factors addressed by Laura's Law
For more Laura's Law information, click on a link below:
- Frequently asked questions about Laura's Law
- What is Laura's Law?
- Is Laura's Law for all people with mental illness?
- Does Laura's Law work?
- Where is Laura's Law available in California?
- What are the eligibility criteria for Laura's Law?
- Can Laura's Law be used to forcibly medicate people?
- Can Mental Health Service Act (MHSA) funding be used to implement Laura's Law?
- What is the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition (CTAC)?
- How to bring Laura's Law to your county
- "A Guide to Laura's Law" - history, overview and other detailed information about the law co-authored by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition (Sept. 2009)
- Laura's Law schematic - a graphic representation of how Laura's Law often works
Frequently asked questions about Laura's Law
- What is Laura's Law? "Laura's Law" is the name used for assisted outpatient treatment (AOT), which is sustained and intensive court-ordered treatment in the community for individuals with severe untreated mental illness and a history of violence or repeated hospitalization. Typically, AOT is only used until a person is well enough to maintain his or her own treatment regimen. In other states, it has been used as an alternative to court-ordered hospitalization and as a "bridge" to maintain psychiatric stability after discharge from hospitalization.
- Is Laura's Law for all people with mental illness? Absolutely not! Assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) is for those who are in a crisis or recovering from a crisis caused by mental illness and for whom voluntary services are not working. California’s program is based on that of Kendra’s Law, a statewide program created in New York in 1999 that has proven extraordinarily successful. In New York State, Kendra’s Law is used to help approximately one thousand of the estimated 230,000 people living in the state with untreated schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder in any given year.
- Does assisted outpatient treatment work? Yes, spectacularly so. Rigorous government and academic studies of AOT show that it drastically reduces rehospitalizations, length of hospital stays, arrests, incarceration, sucide attempts, victimization and violent behavior. (See our Assisted Outpatient Treatment - Backgrounder for details.)
- Where is Laura's Law available in California? Every one of California's 58 counties is eligible to implement Laura's Law. As of early 2012, only Nevada County had implemented it fully. Los Angeles County was operating a small pilot program.
- What are the eligibility criteria for being treated under Laura's Law? Participants are required to be 18 years old, suffering from a mental illness and unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, based on a clinical evaluation. They must also have a history of repeated hospitalization or incarceration related to their mental illness or haave a history of violence to self or others. Several other criteria also apply. All of them may be found under California in "Assisted Psychiatric Treatment: Inpatient and Outpatient Standards by State."
- Can Laura's Law be used to forcibly medicate people? Laura’s Law is not about the physical act of forcibly medicating. Forced medication can - and should - only happen in a licensed hospital. It is about prioritizing highest-need patients and the monitoring and case management that accompanies those patients under the law so that they have the support to stay on their treatment plan, which may include medication.
- What is the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition (CTAC)? CTAC was created in 1999 by a few dozen advocates determined to see California laws promote - rather than forbid - treatment of severe mental illness. With the assistance of the Treatment Advocacy Center and the guidance of coordinators Carla Jacobs - a member of the Treatment Advocacy Center board of directors - Randall Hagar and Chuck Sosebee, the coalition grew to include hundreds of others dedicated to reforming the state's mental illness treatment laws.
Why Laura's Law
"On January 10, 2001, our daughter, Laura, was at work at California's Nevada County Behavioral Health clinic. A client appeared for a scheduled appointment. Without warning or provocation, he drew a handgun and shot Laura four times. When the rampage at the clinic and at a nearby restaurant ended, Laura and two others lay dead, and two were injured.
"California passed Laura’s Law to help make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to another family. Laura was at the clinic that day to help.
"We’re asking for you help to bring Laura’s Law to your county and help save lives."
--Amanda and Nick Wilcox