Laura's Law Mental Health Program Approved By San Francisco Supes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A controversial new law could change the way that mentally ill people are treated in San Francisco. Stephanie Chuang reports. (Published Tuesday, Jul 8, 2014)

    San Francisco supervisors voted 9-2 Tuesday to approve a controversial law that could change the way the city handles the mentally ill.

    This new rule could “force” people to get help.

    Named after a mental health worker killed in 2001 by one of her patients, the Laura’s Law program means those who are mentally ill may be ordered by a judge into outpatient treatment.

    Right now, as an adult, individuals can legally refuse treatment.

    Supporters say this would serve people with mental illnesses who don’t realize or are unwilling to admit they have a problem and who refuse treatment.

    “The one thing that it does is allow family members or community members to petition the DPH to bring this in front of a judge, to ask a judge to say you need to take your treatment,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell. “It doesn’t forcibly inject anyone or force any medications.”

    Opponents say any type of forced treatment not only compromises the person’s civil rights, but will ultimately push people away from seeking real help.

    “A court order is a stick to compel people into things that may not have worked before, let's invest in things that do homeless outreach housing first programs,” said Eduardo Vega of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco.

    Laura's Law requirements:

    • 18 or older suffering mental illness
    • Clinical determination person unlikely to survive without supervision
    • Hospitalized twice in last 36 months and/or violent behavior in last 48 months