Friday, May 23, 2014
The Debate over Laura's Law: The Challenge of Providing Appropriate Care to Individuals with a Mental Disability
One of the cruelest features of some mental disabilities is that they create a level of fear and suspicion that can make it difficult for individuals to seek or accept treatment. The situation is even worse when there is no infra-structure of community mental health clinics that could help build relationships of trust with healthcare providers. The result is our current situation where county jails are often the largest mental health providers in their communities. (not this phenomena is all that recent--I and many others have been writing about it for over ten years).
California's Laura Laws that provide mechanisms for mandatory outpatient treatment are one way of keeping people are a way of keeping people whose only crime is having an illness out of jail. But as the current debate over their use shows, any kind of compelled treatment raises important concerns about respect for civil liberties. Yet some advocates for the mentally ill are supporting the law's implementation because it provides funds for outpatient treatment that would otherwise be unavailable.
News of efforts to provide increased services to those with severe mental disabilities is always of interest--but this policy debate in California is especially so because the arguments on both sides--for providing treatment to those not seeking it--are compelling and thoughtful.