'Laura's Law' mandating mental health treatment may become easier to implement

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AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) plans to introduce a bill to make it easier for California counties to implement Laura's Law. The legislation allows a judge to order outpatient care for some mentally ill individuals.

California has a law that allows counties to opt for mandatory outpatient treatment for some   potentially dangerous mental patients. But several barriers to implementation have prevented all but one county from adopting "Laura's Law."

That's prompted State Sen. Leland Yee to move ahead with a measure that proposes to remedy the problem. The San Francisco Democrat could introduce a bill as early as this week.

Yee announced his plan to offer legislation Thursday to coincide with the 12th anniversary of a shooting in Nevada County that killed Laura Wilcox, a 19-year-old mental health clinic volunteer and college student.

Her death in 2001 resulted in statewide legislation known as “Laura’s Law” that allows counties to order outpatient treatment for certain severely mentally ill patients with a history of hospitalizations or incarcerations.

"This has worked in New York. There’s something called 'Kendra’s Law' that has unbelievable success: less hospitalization, less suicides, less individuals re-offending," says Adam Keigwin, Lee's chief of staff. "What we’re trying to do is get that implemented throughout California."

So far, only Nevada County in Northern California has fully adopted Laura’s Law. And last summer, the Nevada County grand jury issued a report that found the law saved lives and money.

Keigwin says Yee’s legislation will seek to remove barriers that have prevented counties from making the law work – including one that leaves the decision to apply it with each county’s supervisors.

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