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Laura's Law: Forced or Assisted Treatment?

Laura's Law is a California state law that allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. To qualify for the program, the person must have a severe mental illness with a recent history of psychiatric hospitalizations, incarceration, threats, or attempts of violent behavior towards self or others.


New York’s Kendra’s Law was used to draft the California parody bill introduced by Assemblywoman Helen Thompson after Laura Wilcox, a mental health worker, was killed by a man who had refused psychiatric treatment. The measure passed California Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002, currently giving California counties the option to enact assisted outpatient treatment programs based on the measure.


A specified group of individuals may request an investigation to determine if a person qualifies for a Laura's Law program, but only the County mental health director, or designee, may file a petition for a court hearing to determine if the person should be court-ordered to receive services specified under the law. A person may be placed in an assisted outpatient treatment if, after a hearing, a court finds that the following criteria have been met. The patient must:


1. Be eighteen years of age or older

2. Be suffering from a mental illness

3. Be unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, based on a clinical determination

4. Have a history of non-compliance with treatment that has either:

5. Been a significant factor in his or her being in a hospital, prison or jail at least twice within the last thirty-six months; or

6. Resulted in one or more acts, attempts, or threats of violent behavior toward self or others within the previous forty-eight months or 4 years

7. Have been offered an opportunity to voluntarily participate in a treatment plan by the local mental health department but consistently fails to engage in treatment

8. Be substantially deteriorating

9. Need assisted outpatient treatment to prevent a relapse or deterioration that would likely result in the person meeting California's inpatient commitment standard, which is being:

· A serious risk of harm to himself or herself or others; or

· Gravely disabled (in immediate physical danger due to being unable to meet basic needs for food, clothing, or shelter); or

· Be likely to benefit from assisted outpatient treatment; and

· Participation in the assisted outpatient program is the least restrictive placement necessary to ensure the person's recovery and stability.


With supporters for and against the statute, only 19 counties have opted-in amidst concerns of forced treatment and program effectiveness. The law differs from LPS in that it allows for outpatient treatment and saving costs associated with inpatient hospitalization and incarceration. Los Angeles and Nevada County have yielded similar results to Kendra’s Law with a 44% average reduction in adverse outcomes. In Nevada County, Laura’s Law reduced hospitalization, 46.7%; Incarceration, 65.1%; Homelessness, 61.9%; and Emergency Contacts 33.1%. In Los Angeles, Laura’s Law decreased incarceration 78 %; reduced hospitalization 86%, and reduced admission 77% even after the period of court-ordered treatment ended. These results are consistent with other states.


Read more at: https://mentalillnesspolicy.org/states/california/lauraslawindex.html