Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to expand services under Laura’s Law, which allows for court-ordered treatment of severely mentally ill individuals.

The county adopted the California law in July. It’s named for 19-year- old Laura Wilcox, a mental health worker fatally shot by a client outside a Nevada County clinic in 2001.

Mental health workers have run a pilot program since 2003 that relies on voluntary participation.

Based on $10 million in funding approved today, the Department of Mental Health will hire 18 more people to staff and support the Assisted Outpatient Treatment program.

Teams will work in the community to identify and contact chronically mentally ill individuals in need of treatment and petition courts to order treatment, if it is deemed necessary.

The program is expected to allow social workers to reach out to 500 additional potential clients.

Slots in treatment programs will also be expanded, including 60 in- patient beds.

Proponents of the law say it offers a bridge to recovery and drops the number of arrests, emergency hospitalizations and homelessness for the population of mentally ill individuals.

But some community advocates argue that it infringes on individual civil rights and have pushed for expansion of voluntary programs.

The board mandated that no voluntary treatment resources be cut in order to expand the Laura’s Law program.

City News Service

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