Laura’s Law Gaining Wider Support As San Francisco Moves Toward Adoption

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 14, 2014

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San Francisco may soon join the ranks of California counties that have adopted Laura’s Law, a controversial piece of legislation named after Laura Wilcox, who was killed by a mental health patient at the Nevada County public mental health clinic in January 2001. Laura’s Law allows for court-ordered psychiatric treatment including forced anti-psychotics, assisted outpatient treatment and various other types of judicially imposed psychiatric assistance.

Two Proposals Introduced for Adoption of Laura’s Law

Mental HealthThe State of California has given counties the option to implement Laura’s Law. Until recently, Nevada County was the only county to have the law on the books. However, Orange County recently adopted Laura’s Law and a limited number of other counties are considering or have already implemented modified forms. San Francisco County Supervisor Mark Farrell has introduced two proposals—one for voters and one for the county board—in an attempt to adopt Laura’s Law as soon as possible.

Farrell issued a statement saying “Laura’s Law will provide appropriate treatment services for our most vulnerable, reduce hospitalization rates, and improve public safety for our residents.” Farrell went on to say that “[i]f we are truly serious about helping the most vulnerable in our community and ensuring they are put on a path toward recovery and success, San Francisco cannot afford to stay idle anymore.”

Much like Los Angeles County, San Francisco has had a modified version of Laura’s Law in place for some time. However, full adoption of Laura’s Law removes the voluntary component of the current program, allowing judges to order the mentally ill into “assisted outpatient treatment” programs.

Nevada County’s Law Successful at Reducing Repeat Offenses-Hospitalization

Nevada County, long the only county to have fully adopted Laura’s Law, has experienced a significant reduction in repeat offenses and hospitalization cases have decreased. San Francisco hopes to mimic Nevada County’s success. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee supports adoption of Laura’s Law, remarking “Laura’s Law gives our city the ability to engage people into treatment before they are in crisis. And we must provide care before it comes to that, and the new CARES initiative will strengthen our current behavioral health system of care for those that need it the most.”

As more and more counties in California struggle with the fallout from the actions of the untreated mentally ill, San Francisco County’s move to adopt Laura’s Law will likely be heavily scrutinized. Should the county’s program prove successful, it may serve as a model for other major urban centers in California, and lead to the widespread adoption of the law that is growing less controversial by the day.

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