Mental Health and Drug Abuse – A Dual Issue

As a member of the Assembly Health Committee and the bi-partisan Mental Health Caucus, the critical problem of co-occurring disorders: mental health and drug addiction leads to increasing crime and homelessness and ultimately impacts safety throughout California.

This session I have introduced two bills which will address treatment issues for inmates in county jails with co-mental health and substance addiction problems. AB 473 creates a pilot project with the University of California to assist participating counties treating the estimated 72% of mentally ill inmates who also suffer from substance use disorders.  My other bill, AB 532, sets up a program authorizing counties to offer mental health and addiction treatment services to women charged with misdemeanors.  With the new laws in effect, misdemeanors are generally cited and released without tapping into existing wraparound services.

Last session I introduced AB 59, which was ultimately signed into law by the Governor. AB 59 extends the sunset date for assisted outpatient treatment for severely mentally ill persons by five years.  This program, known as Laura’s Law, has shown great results in helping otherwise untreated individuals return to productive lives.  This allows San Diego County and 12 other participating counties to continue to benefit from this important health and public safety legislation.

Those suffering from mental illness and substance abuse can often turn their lives around if they receive treatment. By adopting these modest proposals, taxpayer dollars will be saved, homelessness and crime will decrease and lives will be restored.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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