MENTALLY ILL: New Proposal Brings Changes
In an effort to reopen the mental health care debate, California Assemblywoman Helen Thomson (D-Davis) and state Sen. Don Perata (D-Alameda) yesterday proposed a plan to overhaul the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act that "greatly expanded" the rights of the severely mentally ill to refuse treatment. The measure, a revision of AB 1028, would broaden the criteria for determining when a person is considered "gravely disabled" and in need of mental care. Currently, authorities examine a person's ability to provide "basic personal needs for food, clothing or shelter." Under the proposal, they would also look for a "prior history of mental illness" that might indicate "clear evidence of a recurrence that poses a serious risk." Officers would retain the right to hold people at hospitals for 72 hours of observation. However, under the proposed law, individuals could be detained for an additional 28 days rather than the current 14 days, if they are still a threat to themselves or others. Following the 28 day period, a hearing could deem the individual still dangerous, allowing the state to retain the person for up to a year. In the proposal, Thomson and Perata call for an additional $350 million for treatment, as well as easier access to treatment for the state's 24,000 severely mentally ill inmates. The mental health community remains divided on the "incredibly controversial" issue of expanding involuntary treatment. The bill, which must be approved by Jan. 31, is expected to be the "focus of intense debate" when lawmakers return after the holidays (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 12/16).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.