By Bay City News Service
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to implement Laura's Law, which allows courts to order outpatient treatment for those over 18 years old with severe mental illnesses who may be a danger to themselves and others.
The implementation of the legislation, named after Laura Wilcox, a mental health worker in Nevada County who was killed by a man who had refused psychiatric treatment, will start out gradually with a one-year trial basis, county officials said.
State legislators already passed Laura's Law when it was known as the Assisted Outpatient Demonstration Project Act of 2002, but individual counties are required to approve its application.
According to Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, by adopting Laura's Law, San Mateo County will fill the gap between putting individuals under a conservatorship and leaving individuals who may be in need completely without treatment.
Laura's Law may apply to those who have been hospitalized two or more times in the last three years because of mental illness, have demonstrated violent behavior toward themselves or others in the past four years, have been offered treatment on a voluntary basis and refused it, and are deteriorating mentally.
Last year, San Francisco and Contra Costa counties passed Laura's Law. Alameda County's Board of Supervisors held a hearing on the issue last year but has not approved implementation of the legislation.
For San Mateo County, implementing the program will cost about $1.3 million, including $89,500 in one-time start-up costs during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, followed by $2.4 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
The San Mateo County Health System recommended that the Board of Supervisors vote in favor of Laura's Law after its application in Orange County showed an increase in people voluntarily seeking aid.
"We want to use every tool available to us to provide the services that our residents living with mental illness need to have fulfilling lives," health system chief Jean Fraser said in a statement. "If the passage of Laura's Law encourages more family members to reach out to us for help with their loved ones, then it will serve a good purpose."
San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley said he witnessed the positive outcomes of such a program where minor offenders were released from jail and ordered into treatment.
He said he expects "a decrease in ER admissions, arrests and jail, suicides, and the incidents of acting out" with the implementation of Laura's