Laura’s Law aims to help mentally disabled

People with serious mental disorders may soon be able to receive better care thanks to San Francisco’s implementation of a 2002 California law allowing forced treatment for the most needy.

District 10 Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced legislation Tuesday to fully implement Laura’s Law, which allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for people with serious mental illness, a history of violence, and for whom treatment is not working.

Farrell told SFBay Laura’s law would allow the City to provide mental health services to those who need it most:

 “If we are truly serious about helping the most vulnerable in our community and ensuring that they are put on a path towards recovery and success – San Francisco cannot afford to stay idle anymore.”

The law is named after a Nevada County mental health worker named Laura Wilcox who was killed by a mental health client she was administering to.

It’s designed to help people who can’t use the normal community-based resources available to them because of their severe mental illness.

The California law is modeled after a similar New York law called Kendra’s Law, which has shown success reducing hospitalization and incarceration rates, length of hospital stays, arrests, suicide attempts, victimization and violent behavior.

Studies have shown a 74 percent decrease in homelessness, 77 percent decline in psychiatric hospitalization, 83 percent lower arrest rate and 87 percent fewer incarcerations, according to the New York State Office of Mental Health.

San Francisco will be eligible to receive funds from the state’s Mental Health Services Act amended in 2013 to include assisted outpatient treatment eligibility.

Amanda and Nick Wilcox, parents of Laura Wilcox, told SFBay the law named after their daughter would go a long way to improving the lives of the most needy.

 “The success of Laura’s Law is clear – it gets people with severe mental illness engaged in treatment; it saves lives and saves money. Laura’s Law is the right thing to do.”

The measure is supported by Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisors Scott Wiener, Katy Tang, and London Breed, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, District Attorney George Gascón, Police Chief Greg Suhr, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes White and the Director of the Department of Public Health Barbara Garcia.

The measure was introduced as a Board of Supervisors measure to be considered later this year and will also be added to the November ballot if it fails to pass.

Mayor Ed Lee told SFBay the law would allow the city to intervene in cases before a crisis happened.

 “The proof is what we see on the streets every day in our City with too many people dealing with serious mental health issues like schizophrenia, often self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. That is why we need to do more, and change how we help those who are clearly suffering, and who cannot help themselves.”