CA’s Laura’s Law Would Mandate Mental Treatment But Few Use It


The attack near the University of California, Santa Barbara, is renewing focus on mental health and intervention programs and raising questions about whether enough is being done to prevent mass shootings and other violence, reports NPR. The 2002 “Laura’s Law” in California allows authorities to mandate outpatient mental health care for people who have been refusing it. Proponents argue this kind of intervention could prevent violent acts. Counties have been slow to adopt the legislation, and mental health professionals are divided over its effects.

Near Lake Tahoe in 2001, 19-year-old Laura Wilcox was shot and killed by a 41-year-old man with a history of mental illness. Tom Anderson was the county’s chief public defender at the time and represented the gunman in court. He recalls that the man’s family had tried to alert mental health officials numerous times before the shooting. “[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.” So far, only two counties have gone forward with implementing Laura’s Law. The legislation is controversial. There are concerns that involuntary treatment could make mentally ill people vulnerable to civil rights abuses.

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