Legislature Should Pass Mental Health Treatment Measure, Los Angeles Times Says
The California Legislature should pass at least the "cost-neutral portions" of a bill (AB 1421) that would expand the circumstances under which a mentally ill individual could be ordered to undergo involuntary treatment, a Los Angeles Times editorial states (Los Angeles Times, 4/23). Sponsored by Assembly member Helen Thomson (D-Davis), the bill would allow a court or hearing officer to order certain mentally ill adults to undergo assisted outpatient treatment (AB 1421 text, 4/23). The bill aims to amend the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, a "well-intentioned but ultimately misguided law" that allows involuntary treatment only for individuals "at imminent risk of harming themselves or others," the editorial states. The editorial says that the current law "denies helpful medications to people who are too sick to recognize their need for care" now that "highly effective medications with few adverse side effects" are available to treat mental illness.
Although a similar version of Thomson's bill was blocked last year by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco), the current measure includes "due process rights and other safeguards" ensuring that families and mental health professionals are consulted before medication or other treatment is ordered. The editorial notes that even though Burton has not "come out against" the new bill, the state's energy crisis and subsequent "revenue drain" make it "unlikely" that the Legislature will pass a provision of the bill that allocates $50 million for the delivery of community-based care by "highly trained mental health professionals with staff-to-client ratios of not more than one to 10." However, "[a]dequately funding community services for the seriously mentally ill ... makes sense," the editorial states, adding that "[w]ell-conceived continuing care" has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and incarcerations by more than 50% (Los Angeles Times, 4/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.