Lawmakers Should Pass Thomson’s Mental Health Treatment Bills, Los Angeles Times Says
With "thousands" of mentally ill residents "falling through California's increasingly tattered safety net because of critical flaws in the system," a Los Angeles Times editorial notes that Assembly member Helen Thomson (D-Davis) has introduced "three good bills ... [t]o start mending it." The editorial describes the life of one mentally ill California resident, 22-year-old Chris Hagar, who has "cycled in and out of six jails and hospitals" since age 15, when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia with psychotic symptoms and agitated depression. To prevent similar situations, the editorial endorses Thomson's three bills, which will come up for "crucial" votes in the Assembly in the next two weeks. The measures include:
AB 1421. This bill would "allow judges to compel" a mentally ill patient "to accept follow-up care and outpatient treatment and would provide for social workers and psychiatrists to administer it." Such treatment could be "compelled only after judges, mental health professionals and family members decided that without it, a severely mentally ill person would be at 'high risk' of injury to self or others."
AB 1424. This bill would require courts to "consider psychiatric histories when sentencing and would computerize and streamline an existing database of mentally ill people in the state who have been arrested for violent crimes. The database would replace the state's woefully ineffective, mostly paper-based mental health information system."
- AB 1422: This bill would "bring business leaders together with doctors, law enforcement, psychiatrists, homeless advocates and others in a new mental health commission. By reaching beyond the usual bureaucracies, this approach could better succeed in identifying the most cost-effective treatments."
The editorial concludes that there is "not much more" families of mentally ill patients can do "until our legislators approve these firm but ultimately compassionate measures" (Los Angeles Times, 4/30).
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