Public Comment

Response to Jack Bragen

By Judi Iranyi, LCSW
Friday April 19, 2013 - 02:28:00 PM

This is a response to Jack Bragen's article, "Response to Letter by Judi Iranyi." Mr. Bragen is responding to my April 13, 2013, article, "Making Laura's Law More User Friendly." 

I am not sure Mr. Bragen fully understands Laura's Law. It is not about the police hogtieing the mentally ill or giving them the "authority to act as psychiatrists." Perhaps, Mr. Bragen is confusing Laura's Law with Cal. Health & Welfare Code Section 5150, which has long been in effect. Under Section 1550, when any person, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled, a peace officer, member of the attending staff, of an evaluation facility designated by the county, designated members of a mobile crisis team, or other professional person designated by the county may, upon probably cause, take, or cause to be taken, the person into custody and place him or her in a facility designated by the county and approved by the State Department of Mental Health as a facility for 72-hour treatment and evaluation. Any involuntary hold beyond 72 hours would have to be court ordered. 

Regardless, how can anyone oppose a 180-day assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) program considering the phenomenal results shown in the Duke study and New York's Kendra's Law -- the model for Kendra's Law. 

Consider the case of Nevada County where Laura Wilcox -- for whom the statute was named -- was killed and where Laura's Law was subsequently fully implemented. Laura's Law has proven so successful that the county was honored in 2010 by the California State Association of Counties. In announcing the recognition, CSAC said Nevada County offset public costs of $80,000 with savings estimated at $203,000 that otherwise would have been spent on hospitalization and incarceration of program participants.  

And Laura’s Law is not merely about medication – and is certainly not about the physical act of “forcibly medicating.” Forced medication can, and should, only happen in a licensed hospital following a Riese hearing. Laura’s Law is about prioritizing highest-need patients and the monitoring and case management that accompanies those patients under the law so that they have the support to stay on their treatment plan, which may include medication. 

In conclusion, Laura's Law could be viewed as an alternative to institutionalization, jail, or a continued life on the streets. While we as a society must safeguard the civil rights of the unfortunate, we also have an obligation to care for those who are unable to care for themselves. That's why I believe Laura's Law should be implemented in all California counties.