Laura’s Law aka Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT)-allows courts after extensive due process- to order a small subset of people with serious mental illness who meet a defined criteria to accept treatment as a condition of living in the community. It also makes the mental health system accountable to providing treatment.
It was named after Laura Wilcox, a mental health worker at California’s Nevada County Behavioral Clinic, who was shot by a client four times without provocation on January 10, 2001.
The people who are eligible for Laura’s Law are: those with severe mental illness that repeatedly get arrested or hospitalized due to their failure to stay in treatment, have a history of noncompliance with treatment that has been a significant factor in being hospitalized or incarcerated at least twice in the last 3 years or resulted in one of more acts, attempts, or threats of serious violent behavior within the last four years.
It is encouraged that law enforcement officers (LEO’s) ask their Board of Supervisors to implement Laura’s Law because:
1. it reduces 51/50, emotionally disturbed person, Suicide and Revolving door calls that place a burden on law enforcement resources.
2. It keeps LEO’s safer because they are more likely to be killed by a person with mental illness than by people who had prior arrest for resisting or attacking an officer.
3. It helps ensure that those released of Brown v. Plata and realignment receive the care they need.
4. Has the ability to reduce officer involved shootings of people with mental illness.
5. It returns people with severe mental illness back to the mental health care system.
6. Saves the criminal justice money. (When Nevada County implemented Laura’s Law, 521 days of pre-AOT incarcerations fell to just 17 days post-AOT days-a 97% reduction in incarceration days. With the cost of putting someone in jail $150 per day, the cost, Nevada County saved $75, 600 after implanting Laura’s Law.)
The money to support the law comes from when voters passed Prop 63/Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) specifically to provide funding for the “severely mentally ill.”
Hopefully, now that L.A. county has voted to implement the law, perhaps there will be less jail time and more treatment time for the severely mentally ill.