State auditors have agreed to conduct a review of how three counties, including Los Angeles, apply a state law governing involuntary commitment of people with mental illness, a state senator announced Thursday.
“Our moral responsibility is to help those without the capacity to help themselves,” said Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, one of several legislators who petitioned the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to conduct the review.
“This audit will help us understand where our counties are succeeding and where they’re coming up short,” he said. “The freedom to die on our streets is no freedom at all. We cannot stop working to protect the gravely disabled until all Californians who desperately need care receive it.”
Los Angeles County and city officials have been calling for a review of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which governs involuntary city commitments. Stern noted that due to a “lack of clarity” in the law, individual counties interpret and apply the law differently.
The law allows people with mental illness who pose a danger to themselves or others or are “gravely disabled” to be held for involuntary evaluation and treatment in a psychiatric setting. The definition of gravely disabled focuses on an individual’s ability to care for his or her own physical needs, to find shelter and food to survive.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has been calling for a review of the “gravely disabled” definition to include people who are unable to seek care due to a mental disorder, saying there are people living on the streets who fall outside the law but who will likely die without being forced to accept help.
“I strongly support this bipartisan effort to continue mental health reform and provide life-saving treatment to those living with a serious mental illness,” Barger said Thursday. “The current system is broken and often leaves individuals to fall into chronic homelessness or the criminal justice system.”
Los Angeles City Councilmen Jose Huizar and David Ryu on Wednesday introduced a resolution calling for an audit of the law, saying it is needed “to identify if its statutes need to be clarified, and whether changes are needed to improve the local implementation of involuntary care of those unable to care for themselves.”
A county Department of Mental Health assessment released last year found that a “significant number” of the 831 deaths of homeless people in 2017 in Los Angeles County were due to preventable or treatable medical conditions.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: