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County seeks input on Laura’s Law

POSTED June 9, 2017 6:48 p.m.

Stanislaus County is trying to decide whether or not to implement Laura’s Law, and community members are encouraged to give their input through a recently unveiled online survey.

Laura’s Law, which was adopted by the state in 2002, allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for people with serious mental disorders. Individual counties throughout California have the power to decide whether or not to implement the law, and Stanislaus County officials are currently exploring the issue, putting together a fact-finding process to determine if Laura’s Law would benefit the area.

As part of the county’s community outreach, Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services has already conducted five community meetings to receive public opinions about the law, and now, the department has developed a survey for those who were unable to attend.

The online survey is to be completed only by those who did not make it to the community meetings, as those individuals already completed paper surveys. Questions in the survey include those pertaining to understanding of the law, thoughts on how the law may be beneficial to the county and concerns about implementing the law, among others.

Ahead of two public meetings in March, Public Guardian for the county Debra Buckles explained the necessity of receiving public input when determining whether or not to implement Laura’s Law.

“A big part of gathering information is based on how our community feels,” said Buckles. “An important, valuable part of the whole process is getting community feedback.”

In Stanislaus County, the law would apply to individuals who suffer from mental illness and repeatedly get arrested or hospitalized due to their failure to stay in treatment. Under the law, they would be court ordered to engage in assisted outpatient treatment.

Advocates of Laura’s Law hope that implementation can bring peace of mind for those with family members that suffer from mental illness, as well as address the growing homeless population throughout the county – many of whom suffer from illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Multiple counties throughout California have implemented Laura’s Law, including San Francisco County and Nevada County. According to mentalillnesspolicy.org, Nevada County’s hospitalization was reduced by 46 percent, incarceration by 65 percent and homelessness by 61 percent. In San Francisco County, 108 people were referred in the law’s first year of implementation, with 40 percent having been homeless in the previous three years.

If implemented in Stanislaus County, it would become the 18th county to do so in the state.

Feedback from the BHRS survey will provide needed information to make recommendations to the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors that could be used to formulate a policy if implementation is approved.

To access the survey in English, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/LauraLaw.

To access the survey in Spanish, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/LauraLawSp

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