(Oct. 9, 2014) Stories of homelessness, addiction, violence and suicide attempts were told by nearly three dozen speakers who have a loved one with severe mental illness in Contra Costa, California, earlier this week.
Many of the family members spoke of loved ones who are too sick to recognize their own illness and requested tools to help the mentally ill into treatment (“Helping the severely mentally ill who don't realize they need to be helped,” Contra Costa Times, Oct. 8).
The pleas for help were directed toward the county supervisors, who were considering implementing Laura’s Law to allow assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) for the most severely ill.
If Laura’s Law had existed three years ago, my son would not be charged with a murder he doesn’t understand he committed, said the mother of a man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Another mother told the story of her son, “who refuses to see doctors, take medication or accept counseling,” she said. “For three years he’s been in and out of police cars, ambulances, emergency rooms, psychiatric wards and back onto the streets.”
Even though all five supervisors said Laura’s Law has value, only two supervisors voted in support of implementation and the decision was extended for an additional 90 days while the board waits for a cost analysis.
"We need to help those who don't realize they need a treatment plan,” said Mary Piepho, one of the supervisors who voted in favor of implementing the court-ordered outpatient treatment program. “The point is to prevent crisis before it occurs."
Contra Costa shouldn’t wait too long to offer this life-saving tool to its most severely ill. In May, Orange County supervisors voted unanimously to adopt Laura’s Law and July saw San Francisco and Los Angeles vote to fully implement the program – covering more than 14.5 million Californians and making the state a better place to live.
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