Voice of OC on KCRW: Discussing Controversy Over Laura’s Law

Voice of OC joins Which Way, L.A.? host Warren Olney this week as he leads a wide-ranging panel discussion of Laura’s Law, the controversial mental health law, which Orange County this week became the first large California county to adopt.

(Click here to listen to the discussion.)

Participating in the discussion are Voice of OC reporter Tracy Wood; Ron Thomas, father of mentally ill transient Kelly Thomas, who was beaten to death by Fullerton police; Ann Menasche, a lawyer with Disability Rights California, who opposes Laura’s Law and Annette Mugrditchian director of Adult and Older Adult Behavioral Services for the Orange County Health Care Agency, which will implement Laura’s Law.

Laura’s Law allows the courts to order a severely mentally ill adult, whose condition is deterioriating, to receive outpatient treatment.

The adult is represented before the judge by a public defender and participates in the court proceedings. He or she must be determined to be unable to care for him or herself, and have been hospitalized twice or had two incarcerations in the past three years. In addition, in the past four years the actions of these adults would have to result in violence or attempted violence toward themselves or others.

There is no civil or criminal penalty if the mentally ill person refuses outpatient treatment. The goal, according to supporters, is to help adults with severe mental illness recognize they need treatment, such as group therapy or medications, before they reach the point where they are involuntarily committed to a hospital for treatment or wind up in jail.

About 120 Orange County residents are expected to qualify for Laura’s Law each year, according to the Health Care Agency.