On March 18, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan ordered a report from Alex Briscoe, Alameda County BHCS (Behavioral Health Care Services) agency director regarding Laura’s Law. His report was published on May 1; read it here. and advises voluntary programs as an alternative to Laura’s Law. But as we all know, voluntary doesn’t work for some mentally ill. Please read the My Word written by Candy Dewitt here (and below in this blogpost) detailing the reasons why we should demand that Laura’s Law be enacted in Alameda County. Ms. Dewitt fought for years to get medical treatment required for her beautiful son Daniel who was stricken with paranoid schizophrenia who was a clear danger to himself, and they feared others. Their fears came true. Laura’s Law in Alameda County would have protected Daniel himself from becoming a victim to his disease by ensuring he be under the proper medical care. Laura’s Law and Kendra’s Law already protects others like him in other counties and states. Let’s make sure we get the same protections in our own county: Laura’s Law intervenes before these precious young adult children become violent perpetrators, and this then protects our community and other loved ones.
Laura’s Law can only be operative in counties in which the county board of supervisors, by resolution, authorizes its application and makes a finding that no voluntary mental health program serving adults, and no children’s mental health program, was reduced in order to implement the law.
DEADLINE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT: JUNE 30
WRITE & REQUEST THAT LAURA’S LAW BE APPROVED IN ALAMEDA COUNTY
Wilma Chan Alameda County Supervisor, District 3: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith Carson Alameda County Supervisor, District 5: Keith.email@example.com
Alex Briscoe Alameda County BHCS Director: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Chapman, Alameda County BHCS Medical Director: email@example.com
Contra Costa Times by Candy DeWitt, guest commentary © 2013 Bay Area News Group
Posted: 06/08/2013 12:01:00 PM PDT
If you don’t have someone you love struck down the prime of his or her life with severe mental illness, I don’t think you could ever imagine the pain and suffering. We had no idea and knew nothing about mental illness. Today, it consumes my life: fighting for change, for our young son, fighting for others and for the hope that the senseless tragedies stop.
For four years we tried desperately to get help for our son, but, given our mental health system, we were not able to get the sustained help he needed.
We were told to wait until he hit bottom, wait until he went through another traumatic and involuntary hold of our system’s 51/50s. It makes no good sense that a person has to be in crisis before he or she can get help.
We were told repeatedly to let the system work, which, clearly, it does not for many.
The repeated short emergency hospital stays is a terrible waste of much-needed funds. We treat mental illness as if it were a broken leg that can be healed within days rather than the chronic brain disorder that it is.
These good people have become ill through no fault of their own, and many lose any semblance of a quality life.
Our son has been at Napa State Hospital for more than a year now, incompetent to stand trial. He is accused of an unthinkable crime that will forever affect our lives and the lives of another family. Anyone who knew our son would have described him as gentle and shy with an innate sense of right and wrong. This was our Daniel.
We believe Laura’s Law could have made a difference. Laura’s Law is a form of assisted outpatient treatment that was passed in California in 2002, but it is up to each county to adopt. It offers patients court-mandated outpatient care in the community instead of in a jail or psychiatric ward and with supportive services. It does not force medication. Its goal is to partner with the person to develop a plan to keep them out of the hospital and crisis.
Laura’s Law is modeled after Kendra’s Law in New York and has resulted in 46 percent fewer psychiatric hospitalizations, 61 percent reduction in homelessness, 83 percent reduction in arrests and 65 percent decline in incarcerations.
One of the reasons the law works is because up to 50 percent of people who suffer from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses are not able to recognize they are ill, a symptom that doctors refer to as anosognosia.
Because of this they sometimes see no reason to take medication and therefore do not get treatment until a tragedy occurs. Laura’s Law has proved to help these people.
I believe in civil liberties and applaud those who suffer with mental illness who are able to help themselves. But we are neglecting the other group who instead of care get confinement, trips through the revolving doors between our hospitals and jails and many end up living homeless on our streets. How is this civil?
On March 18, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan ordered a report from Alex Briscoe, Alameda County BHCS agency director, regarding Laura’s Law. This report came out May 1. Although it offers good suggestions for voluntary treatment, it does not include Laura’s Law. Without this law or a judicial component, we will not reach the people who are currently not being helped.
This cause is worthy of your attention; if you care, please respond to Briscoe’s report by writing Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan during the response period that ends June 30.
Candy DeWitt is a resident of Alameda.