The Divide Over Involuntary Mental Health Treatment – Kirk Siegler

Involuntary commitment to a hospital for mental illness can be a lengthy and complex process. A California law makes mandatory outpatient treatment an option.

 

Kirk Siegler writes for NPR:

The attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, are renewing focus on programs aimed at requiring treatment for people who are mentally ill as a way to prevent mass shootings and other violence.

In California, a 2002 law allows authorities to require outpatient mental health care for people who have been refusing it. Proponents argue that this kind of intervention could prevent violent acts.

But counties within the state have been slow to adopt the legislation and mental health professionals are divided over its effects.

Do Family And Friends Know Best?

The story behind Laura’s Law begins in 2001. In rural Nevada County, near Lake Tahoe, 19-year-old Laura Wilcox was shot and killed by a 41-year-old man with a history of mental illness. He had walked into the county’s behavioral health center and opened fire.

“[Officials] were declaiming privacy issues and stuff and wouldn’t communicate with the family,” Anderson says. “He … started amassing guns and setting up booby traps around his house and he had this psychosis of he was going to be attacked any minute.”

Now Nevada County’s presiding judge, Anderson is also a vocal advocate for Laura’s Law, which was passed by the state legislature in 2002. The law allows counties to compel outpatient treatment for people whose family or friends are concerned about their mental state. It’s seen as an intermediate step before someone is forced into inpatient psychiatric care.

“The beauty of the program — the wonderment of it to me — is that roughly about 60 percent of the people that they do outreach to, where they go out to intervene after a person has been referred, voluntarily accept services at that time,” he says…

To read the rest of the article, or listen to it, follow this link

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