Laura’s Law – Forced Treatment, Saved Lives

Laura’s Law – Forced Treatment, Saved Lives

Some of you may have heard of Laura’s Law in California or Kendra’s Law (similar) in New York. These laws, and similar laws across 42 states, allow for court-ordered treatment of mental illness as a condition of community living.

In other words, they strong-arm people into treatment and this could be seen as treatment without consent. (It’s hard to argue consent when your ability to live outside a locked facility is in jeopardy.)

And this is a very good thing. It is saving lives (among other things).

What is Laura’s Law?

Laura’s Law, also known as Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) is a law that targets certain people determined to be both mentally ill and dangerously violent and forces them to receive mental health treatment as a condition of community living.

To qualify until Laura’s Law you must:

  • Have a serious mental illness
  • Be unable to live safely in the community without supervision
  • Been in a hospital or jail at least twice within 36 months or have been involved in violent behavior within the last 48 months
  • Meet additional criteria (no one seems to be very specific on this)

Note that not only does the law compel the individual to seek treatment but it compels the mental health system to provide it. (This is key as some people can’t properly access services.)

Why Is Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Good?

Unbelievably, the study of similar laws in others states shows the enactment of the law:

  • Keeps the public, patients, and law enforcement safer by reducing physical harm to others (47%) and property destruction (43%)
  • Helps the seriously mentally ill by reducing homelessness (74%), suicide attempts (55%) and substance abuse (48%)
  • Saves money by reducing arrests (83%), incarceration (87%) and hospitalization (77%)

And for those of you interested in money, Nevada County saved $1.81 for every dollar invested including $346,950 of hospitalization costs.

Why is Laura’s Law Good?

And as a piece in the Huffington Post just highlighted, Laura’s Law is showing the same gains.

  • Laura’s Law reduced incarceration 78% – During the six months prior to enrollment in AOT, program participants were incarcerated for approximately 388 days. But during the six months after enrollment in AOT they were incarcerated for only 85 days, a reduction of 78%.
  • Laura’s Law reduced hospitalization 86% – During the six months prior to Laura’s Law participants were hospitalized for 345 days. While enrolled in Laura’s Law only one person was hospitalized (for 49 days) for a reduction of 86%.
  • Laura’s Law reduced hospitalization 77% even after discharge from Laura’s Law – Since discharge from Laura’s Law participants had 81 days of hospitalization, or a reduction of 77% in days of hospitalization.

Assisted Outpatient Treatment Saves LivesBut Laura’s Law is Treating People Against Their Will!

I know. And look how well it’s going.

Could you imagine if you took a homeless person who kept ending up in the hospital and in jail, treated them and suddenly they were in housing and didn’t get locked up anywhere?

Can you imagine what an amazing life change that would be for the person?

It’s easy to see why that kind of change can save lives.

More Statistics about Assisted Outpatient Treat (AOT)

And more stats on Assisted Outpatient Treatment you might like to know:

  • Laura’s Law participants may participate in treatment planning
  • Laura’s Law cannot force a person to take medication – separate court proceedings (existing) have to be undertaken for that
  • Nevada County and Orange County estimate less than .003% of the population would be allowed into the program
  • 75% of people in AOT programs  say the program helped them take control of their lives
  • 81% said that AOT helped them to get and stay well
  • 90% said AOT made them more likely to keep appointments and take medication

Treating the Mentally Ill Saves Lives

It’s really, really hard to argue with those numbers. While I think it’s critical to identify the right people for the program, it seems unequivocally evident that the program works.

And this program works because of something known as anosognosia – being so ill that you believe there is nothing wrong with you. Unlike most people with a mental illness, this small subset of people “know” they are Jesus or that the FBI planted a tracker in their head. They “know” that nothing is wrong with them and that it’s everyone else that is the problem.

The Trouble with Not Treating those who Don’t Want it

The problem with never treating anyone who doesn’t want to be treated is that you miss this subset of extremely ill and extremely needy individuals. These people become “revolving door patients” who are dropped off in the hospital for frequent crises and alternately dropped off into jail for frequent legal problems. When you “know” you are Jesus, a lot of bad things can happen to you.

So when I say it’s important to treat people without consent, in some cases, these are some of the cases I’m talking about. And I think the 55% reduction in suicide attempts speaks for itself. People in this program want to live. Enough said.

Also see this post where I reply to some of the feedback generated from this Laura’s Law post.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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