Laura’s Law (Assisted Outpatient Treatment/AOT) and the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) were both enacted to help the most seriously mentally ill. MHSA funds may be used for individuals in Laura’s Law, but mental health commissioners divert MHSA funds to the highest-functioning, and tell their Boards of Supervisors that they need incremental funds for those in Laura’s Law. This is discrimination against the seriously ill that MHSA was intended for. It explains why the seriously mentally ill in California are sent to shelters, jails, prisons and morgues rather than treatment in spite of the over $1.5 billion raised annually by MHSA. This site details Laura’s Law and MHSA and provides county by county information.
Intro to Laura’s Law
“Laura’s Law” is California’s version of Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT). It allows courts–after extensive due process, to order a small subset of people with serious mental illness who have been noncompliant with treatment and meet very narrowly defined criteria to accept treatment as a condition of living in the community. It also allows courts to order the recalcitrant mental health system to provide treatment. National research shows AOT works. Research in California shows it works. For example, Nevada County found:
Hospitalization was reduced 46%;
Incarceration reduced 65%;
Homelessness reduced 61%;
Emergency Contacts reduced 44%;
Saved of $1.81-$2.52 for every dollar spent as result of reducing incarceration, arrest, and hospitalization.
17 counties implemented Laura’s Law as of 2/2017: Alameda, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Kern, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Nevada, Orange, Placer, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Shasta, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Yolo
In 2004, California voters altruistically passed Proposition 63 (Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), a 1% tax on millionaires to help people with “severe mental illness” and to “prevent mental illness from becoming severe and disabling.” It raises over $1.5 billion annually and is an important program that does a lot of good. But mental health commissioners, CalMHSA and the oversight commission (MHSOAC) encouraged social services programs that have little to do with serious mental illness to masquerade as mental illness programs to enable them to claim MHSA funds. This leads to programs that fail to serve the seriously ill being showered with funds while those that do serve the seriously ill go unfunded. Our report, MHSA: A Bait and Switch found this unmitigated mission-creep, insider dealing, and lack of oversight, found
$2.5 billion of the “Full Service Partnership (FSP) funds were spent without oversight of whether the recipients had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or the other serious mental illnesses that made them eligible for MHSA funds.
Why is public in dark about this? $11 million in MHSA funds went to hire a P.R. firm that works to convince the media that all is well. They continually issue press releases and call editorial boards to extol the virtues of the program. County mental health directors and recipients of the diverted funds benefit from the status quo and therefore defend it. Governor Brown, former state Senator Steinberg and his successors appointed recipients of MHSA funds to sit on the Oversight Commission. As a result of this conflict, MHSA is being overseen by beneficiaries of funds and cheerleaders for mission creep, rather than stewards of the public purse. This is not what voters wanted to happen or were told would happen. Money is not the issue. Leadership is.