Santa Barbara Laura’s Law Status

1. Current Status: Santa Barbara has not a single community program to help individuals who will not accept voluntary services. 100% of SB services are for those well enough to know they need services. Those who are sicker–aren’t well enough to accept services voluntarily(have anosognosia) get involuntarily committed or incarcerated. That is a massive infringement of civil rights and needlessly expensive to taxpayers.

2. Santa Barbara can fix the problem today by implementing Laura’s Law and giving those who meet the criteria equal access to already planned and funded MHSA programs

  • No new slots are needed
  • No new planning is needed
  • No new mental health funds are needed

3. By failing to give these individuals equal access to already planned, funded and implemented services, SB is discriminating against the most seriously ill, the very people MHSA was supposed to be helping.

4. Ending the discrimination is required by MHSA Law, Laura’s Law, the California Code of Regulations and the Olmstead Supreme Court Decision requiring the provisioning of services in the “most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of the disabled, considering available resources.”

5. Santa Barbara falsely claims they cannot serve those with serious mental illness unless they can identify new funding, create new slots, and conduct new planning. This is not true. Santa Barbara can implement Laura’s Law and give eligible individuals access to already planned and funded services.  Serving the most seriously ill should be THE CORE function of the mental health department, not an afterthought.  Santa Barbara could and should implement Laura’s Law today. The only missing piece the BOS must address is the funding of court costs (about $5000 per patient). That does not come out of the mental health budget and therefore not a concern to mental health committees.

6. The California Code of Regulations is clear: Laura’s Law individuals may be served in programs that already exist. SB cannot discriminate against them. CA Code of Regulations § 3400. Allowable Costs and Expenditures specifically says…(b) Programs and/or services provided with MHSA funds shall…(2) Be designed for voluntary participation. No person shall be denied access based solely on his/her voluntary or involuntary legal status.

MHSA and AB1421, SB585, Darell Steinberg, Rusty Selix, DMH and practice in Nevada County all acknowledge that LL recipients may be served in existing programs. Therefore no new funding, planning, or segregated services are needed.

  • Mental Health Services Act makes it clear MHSA funds can be used for Laura’s Law
  • SB 585 makes it clear MHSA funds can be used for Laura’s Law.It says: “counties that elect to implement this article [Laura’s Law] may pay for the provision of services under Sections 5347 and 5348 using funds distributed to the counties from the Mental Health Subaccount, etc.”
  • MHSA author Darrell Steinberg was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying MHSA funds can be used for Laura’s Law:  “Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said there is nothing in the measure passed by California voters in November 2004 that prohibits its use on Laura’s Law cases.  I’m very clear that it can be…The services are available to everyone who meets the definition of serious mental illness.” (“Care, not Excuses”, San Francisco Chronicle, February 21, 2008. Page B6.)
  • MHSA co-author, Rusty Selix said MHSA funds can be used for Laura’s Law: “Once someone is enrolled in an AB 2034 [Adult System of Care] program there is funding for their services and this could also include court assisted outpatient orders”  (“From Fail-First to Help-First: Proposition 63 Transforms California’s Mental Health System”, February 3, 2005.)
  • Steve Mayberg, former State Director of Mental Health noted that MHSA funds can be used for Laura’s Law: “MHSA will fund Full Service Partnership programs that are primarily voluntary in nature.  But someone who is a conservatee, an AB 1421 [Laura’s Law] program member, a referral from juvenile or criminal justice, etc. should not be denied access to those services. (CA DMH General Stakeholders Meeting Combined Meeting Summary June 1, 2005.)
  • The Experience in Nevada county shows MHSA funds can be used for Laura’s Law: In Nevada County, the provisioning of services is voluntary and takes place within existing programs that are “designed for voluntary participation”. The services originate with voluntary providers. Individuals are co-mingled with non-AOT clients and there are many more non-AOT clients than AOT clients. Individuals have choices during the entire time they are enrolled in AOT including to take or not to take medications that may be prescribed, to participate in groups or not, to see a therapist or CADAC counselor or not, and to discuss what they are willing to do as part of the process. There are no security guards in the facility, no use of restraints, no seclusion, no locks and no forced medication. They are not handcuffed in the courtroom and taken to jail for a “violation of the treatment plan” as is the process in Mental Health Court when expectations are not met. There is no violation of the treatment plan in AOT due to the nature of “no-fail services”. AOT services are “not dependent on the progress or adherence with treatment expectations, but rather by individual needs and pace set by the individual in partnership with the team”.  Whether individuals show up or not is their choice. They can get up and walk out at any time. The client is not in any way compelled by providers to do anything. Most of the individuals in the programs are voluntary patients. Safeguards are written into the implementation plan, and due process is protected by the court.

Date: March 20, 2015.