“I understand that there is a certain population that falls through the cracks,” said supervisor Sue Frost.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento County regulator unanimously voted Tuesday to implement Laura’s law in the country, also known as assisted outpatient care, or AOT.
Laura’s law was passed as AB 1421 in 2002 and is named after Laura Wilcox, a 19-year-old who was shot dead in Nevada by a man with untreated severe mental illness.
Dr. Ryan Quist, director of Behavioral Health Services in Sacramento County, says the law allows court-ordered outpatient treatment for people with mental illness.
“The idea is that treatment should be able to prevent deterioration that would likely result in a severe disability that would prevent harm to yourself or others,” said Dr. Quist.
The program was approved in 2002, but AB 1976 was incorporated into law in September 2020, thereby rejecting the law. Counties must decide by July 1, 2021 if they should do so and provide a reason why they are opting out. The program is already in place in neighboring counties such as Nevada, Placer, and Yolo.
Opponents say they are concerned about individual civil rights and the potential for coercive treatment. Proponents say the law allows janitors to get the most vulnerable help when it is needed. The conflict of perspectives was evident during Tuesday’s public comment period.
“This is a bad plan to simply lose more freedom,” said one caller, asking the council to vote no and to log out.
Other callers encouraged the council to vote yes.
“It starts with building trust with consistent, compassionate reach. It forms a team of full-service providers like mental health clinicians, court officers, peers and family members, ”said another caller.
District elected officials such as Mayor Daryl Steinberg and Supervisor Sue Frost both spoke out, saying that while initially speaking out against Laura’s law, they have since come to support it.
“I have come to believe that Laura’s law or assisted outpatient treatment is an absolutely essential part of the continuum of care,” said Mayor Steinberg.
“I was one of those who was concerned about Laura’s law. My main concern was civil rights, ”said Frost.
Frost says a voter with a schizophrenic son explained her story and asked Frost to read DJ Jaffe’s book Insane Consequences. Frost says after reading it and doing her own research, she changed her mind.
“I understand that there is a certain population falling through the rifts,” said Frost.
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