Los Angeles Times Examines Problems With Implementation of Involuntary Mental Health Treatment Law
The Los Angeles Times on Sunday examined problems with the implementation of a state law (AB 1421) enacted in 2002 that allows court-ordered involuntary treatment for some individuals with mental illnesses. According to the Times, implementation of the law "has been stymied by a lack of funding and controversy" (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 2/29). The law, which took effect last year, authorizes counties to implement programs that allow the courts to oversee outpatient treatment of some residents with mental illnesses for as long as six months. Counties that decide to establish the programs must provide teams of mental health professionals with staff-to-client ratios of no more than one to 10. The programs must serve patients ages 18 and older with recommendations from physicians that the patient requires supervision to survive safely in the community. In addition, patients must have undergone hospitalization twice in the past 36 months; have a history of noncompliance with treatment; committed or threatened to commit violent behavior; refused treatment; or have a deteriorating condition (California Healthline, 1/7). The law requires counties to approve and fund the programs themselves, and as a result, many counties have not considered such programs. Several counties, such as San Francisco and San Diego, rejected proposals to develop such programs because of cost issues and "discomfort over the possibility of infringing on the rights of mentally ill people," the Times reports. Los Angeles County is the only county in the state that has implemented such a program, and the program can treat only 15 patients at one time. Former Assembly member Helen Thomson (D-Davis), a Yolo County supervisor and former psychiatric nurse who sponsored the legislation, said that without more programs, "we won't have any proof to show the Legislature how much we need this law and how well it can work" (Los Angeles Times, 2/29).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.