Laura’s Law, passed in California in 2002, allows court-ordered treatment of people with severe mental illness.
In the 10-plus years since the law first past, it has gone almost completely unused, except for passage in tiny Nevada County.
Debate over passage of the law in Orange County has been fierce, with proponents telling heartfelt stories about family members lost to mental illness. Critics of the law argue that it can easily infringe on basic human rights -- that forcing treatment is an inappropriate intervention into someone’s private life.
Without Laura’s Law, people with mental illness can be held for only 72 hours at a time, and only when they pose an imminent danger to themselves or others. Some lawmakers voting for the passage of Laura’s Law vocalized support while acknowledging that the law would need a lot of supervision in a larger county.
Should courts be allowed to order treatment for people with severe mental illness? How will Laura’s Law take effect in a large county? How could it impact people with mental illness and their families?
Steve Pitman, President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Orange County.
Sally Zinman, executive director, CAMHPRO (California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations)