Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) is one of the most effective tools available for treating severely mentally ill persons. Legislation known as Laura’s Law was introduced in 2001 by Assemblymember Helen Thomson (D – Davis) in an effort to make AOT available throughout California.
My subsequent legislation, AB 59, extended the sunset date an additional 5 years.
Laura’s Law allows court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for mentally ill patients in participating counties. It is aimed at individuals who are at risk of danger to themselves and others with the goal of helping mentally ill individuals return to productive lives, while also improving public safety. The law is named after Laura Wilcox, a 19-year-old college student/volunteer who was fatally shot along with two others at a Nevada County mental health clinic by a mentally ill individual who was being treated sporadically at the facility. His family had unsuccessfully tried to require that he receive regular treatments, but under laws existing at that time he could not be compelled to participate. Laura’s Law changed that bringing more treatment options to counties.
Seventeen counties, including Nevada, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, have adopted Laura’s Law. And it’s been very successful. In Nevada County where the law was first implemented, hospitalization was reduced by 46%, incarceration by 65% and homelessness by 61%. In Los Angeles County, incarceration was reduced by 78% and hospitalization by 86%. Here in San Diego County, just threatening to invoke Laura’s Law has resulted in dozens of patients voluntarily agreeing to treatment. Laura’s Law has saved lives and millions of taxpayer dollars in participating counties.
As a member of the Assembly Health Committee, I will continue to work on bipartisan solutions that address mental health and public safety issues facing our state and region.
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.