Monterey County Supervisors Consider Withdrawing From Mental Health Law – Monterey Herald

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SALINAS – Monterey County elected officials on Tuesday will consider withdrawing from a state law governing the care of critically ill residents of the county.

Elsa Jimenez, Monterey County’s health director, recommends that the watchdog board pass a resolution that will allow the county to refuse to implement what is commonly referred to as Laura’s Law.

The law requires counties to implement an involuntary and court-ordered treatment program for people who cannot maintain stable mental health and who have frequent hospitalizations and run-ins with law enforcement, Jimenez said in a report provided to supervisors.

The Laura Law was passed in 2002, and a subsequent law (AB1976) that comes into force on July 1 allows counties to step down if certain conditions are met. The law is named after Laura Wilcox, who was shot and killed at the age of 19 by a man with a serious untreated mental illness.

Like many state laws that require counties to implement various programs, Laura’s Law is an unfunded tenure. It is also critical that counties cannot cut other services in order to fund a Laura’s Law program, called assisted outpatient treatment.

The program would treat residents who are unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, and who have a history of non-compliance with treatment. The warrant would affect people who, in the past 36 months, have required two psychiatric hospitalizations or been imprisoned because of their mental illness, or the person’s mental illness has resulted in threats of violence to themselves or others at the time. during the previous 48 months.

Another reason for opting out of the Laura’s Law program is a question of redundancy. The programs provided by the Monterey County Behavioral Health Office provide services “that not only meet but exceed expectations under (assisted outpatient treatment),” Jimenez said in his report.

“(The Behavior Health Bureau) puts the client at the forefront of their own treatment, listening to their voice and meeting the client where they are in their recovery,” Jimenez said. “Behavioral health understands and embraces the importance of building trusting and lasting relationships with the people we serve to effectively support their long-term recovery. “

Behavioral health also strives to ensure respect for cultures and languages, she said.

County data shows a marked increase in demand for mental health services. Behavioral health served 13,134 people between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. This represents a 25% five-year jump in the number of people in need of mental health services and a 69% increase over the past 10 years. last years.

The implementation of Laura’s Law would also be expensive. The estimated cost of providing treatment-related ambulatory mental health services is $ 364,176 per year. Behavioral health does not have the funding to meet state requirements. Additionally, the average cost of a court would be $ 7,896 per day, or $ 987 per hour, to operate a dedicated Laura’s Law courtroom. This is without counting the salaries of judges and public defenders.

Also related to mental health, supervisors will receive a resolution recognizing Maternal Mental Health Week in Monterey County. In California, 21% of pregnant and postpartum women suffer from a mental health problem.

The number is higher for African American and Latin mothers, as well as for women living in poverty.

The Supervisory Board will meet in a virtual session open from 10:30 am. The meeting will be accessible at https://monterycty.zoom.us/j/224397747.

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