As San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors prepares today to pass the controversial Laura’s Law to compel treatment of mentally ill people, a judge from Nevada County who has dealt with the law for six years said naysayers’ fears have proved unfounded, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The small, rural county was the site of the 2001 slaying of Laura Wilcox by a psychiatric patient and was the first California county to adopt the law named in her honor to allow family members and others to petition a judge to require treatment of mentally ill patients.
Judge Thomas Anderson said that since Nevada County implemented the law in 2008, there have been 41 petitions for compelled treatment. About half of those patients accepted voluntary care, never seeing a courtroom. Of those who entered the civil proceedings process, most wound up agreeing to participate in mandated treatment without a fight. “Having this process of coming in front of a judge isn’t about jailing them, which is their previous experience, or taking all their rights away,” Anderson said. “It’s just about offering support.” Laura’s Law allows a family member, roommate, mental health provider, or police or probation officer to petition the courts to compel outpatient treatment of a mentally ill person. The person must have been hospitalized or jailed stemming from mental health issues twice in the past three years and have been seriously violent in the past four years.