LA County board to vote on forced treatment for mentally ill

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a law that would open the doors to court-ordered treatment for people with severe mental illnesses.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state law last September, but each county must authorize the law individually. Orange County approved the new law in May.

"It's vital to our county. I think it's also vital in the reforms we're looking at in our criminal justice system," said Mark Gale with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness believes the Los Angeles County jail is full of people who have mental illnesses. They believe Laura's Law will get people into treatment before they commit a crime.

The law is only meant for a very small group of people generally known to law enforcement.

Gale said it would target those "who have untreated serious mental illness, who are falling through the cracks, not engaged with the system, not able to understand they have a serious mental illness."

Under the law, no one can be forced to take medication.

In a written statement, DJ Jaffe, the executive director of MentalIllnessPolicy.org, called the law a "last off ramp before jail" for those who are seriously ill.

"It is like putting a fence by the edge of a cliff, rather than an ambulance at the bottom," Jaffe said.

But not everyone in Los Angeles County's mental health field supports implementing court-ordered treatment.

Dave Pilon, president and CEO of Mental Health America of Los Angeles, said mental health treatment works best when it's "freely chosen" and voluntary. When treatment is forced by a judge, patients typically resist.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meets tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m.

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