OC’s Costs to Comply With Laura’s Law Much Higher Than San Diego’s

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San Diego County health officials say they could handle nearly five times as many severely mentally ill adults at about one-third of Orange County’s estimate to adopt Laura’s Law, the state’s outpatient treatment program for severely mentally ill adults.

The two counties are almost identical in population with about 3 million people, according to the 2010 census.

According to an article last week in San Diego CityBeat, San Diego County officials estimate it would cost $2.2 million a year to provide for the 540 people likely to need the outpatient care.

In a report to the Orange County Board of Supervisors Oct. 14, the county Health Care Agency estimated it would cost up to $6.1 million a year for 120 adults.

No date has been set for the Board of Supervisors to publicly discuss the Orange County report.

For Laura’s Law to take effect in a county, its board of supervisors must approve it. Only Nevada County has fully adopted the law, the state statute that went into effect in 2003. Los Angeles County is running a pilot program.

In its report, Orange County officials stated they use other programs but didn’t specifically address outpatient treatment of those with severe mental illness who resist taking medications or other treatment.

CityBeat reported that the San Diego County Mental Health Board, “which advises the county Board of Supervisors on policy matters, voted earlier this year in favor of Laura’s Law’s implementation,” but “the county’s Health and Human Services Agency remains opposed to it.”

The article stated that Mendocino County is also considering Laura’s Law after Aaron Bassler, who reportedly was severely mentally ill and not taking medication, killed a member of the Fort Bragg City Council and another man in September. Police killed Bassler after an extensive manhunt through Northern California forests.

Orange County’s Board of Supervisors asked for its report in August, a month after Kelly Thomas, who wasn’t taking medication for severe schizophrenia, died following a beating by Fullerton police. Two officers were charged with felonies, one with second-degree murder and the other with manslaughter. Both have pleaded not guilty.

In its report to supervisors, Orange County health officials estimated the combined costs for the Health Care Agency, county counsel and public defender to administer the law would be between $5.7 million and $6.1 million a year.

Both the public defender’s office and the county counsel said their costs would be exactly the same, $476,000 to $676,000. Neither office returned phone calls seeking clarification.

— TRACY WOOD

 

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