Los Angeles Supervisors Vote to Implement Laura’s Law

California’s most populous county has become the latest to sign on to a measure allowing for court-appointed outpatient treatment for the severely mentally ill.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to fully implement Laura’s Law, which was signed by Governor Grey Davis in 2002. The law allows mentally ill persons with a recent history of violent threats or actions to be compelled into treatment, but applies only to counties which have agreed to implement it.

Tuesday’s vote was 4 to 0 with Supervisor Don Knabe absent. It came just one week after a vote for implementation by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The law has been in place in Nevada County since 2008, and the counties of Orange and Yolo adopted it earlier this year. 

“Laura’s Law has proven to significantly improve the lives of program participants, decrease incarceration, reduce homelessness, and enhance public safety,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich

A pilot program initiated by Antonovich in 2010 showed a 78 percent reduction in incarcerations and a 77 percent reduction in hospitalizations among participants. Nevada County reported similar results after implementing the program.

Nevertheless, many civil liberties advocates remain skeptical of the law. Mark-Anthony Johnson, of the group Dignity and Power Now, said it "plays into the fear that folks with mental health conditions are violent people” and expressed concerns that minorities could be unfairly targeted.

Supervisor Gloria Molina also expressed some reservations, though she ultimately voted for adoption.

"We don't want to go back to the day when people were institutionalized in a way that was very harmful to themselves and to us as a society," Molina insisted.

County officials have said they will place an emphasis, first and foremost, on voluntary treatment options.

The program is expected to cost just under $10 million per year and will be primarily covered by state mental health funds and Medi-Cal.

Read more about Tuesday’s vote here.


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