Counties opt out of 'Laura's Law' program

·2 min read

Jun. 10—In April, Yuba and Sutter county officials opted out of the Laura's Law program, also known as assisted outpatient treatment.

Both counties' board of supervisors made their decisions based on the recommendation of Sutter-Yuba Behavioral Health (SYBH). Yuba County spokesperson Russ Brown said one of the reasons for the recommendation is that the law is duplicative of services already provided in the area.

The current law provides for court-ordered outpatient treatment through assisted outpatient treatment (AOT). AB 1421 was established in 2002 in memory of Laura Wilcox, who worked at Nevada County Behavioral Health and was killed by an individual with mental health issues who refused treatment, according to a Sutter County Board of Supervisors staff report.

"Laura's Law gives counties the option of implementing involuntary AOT programs for individuals who have difficulty maintaining their mental health stability and have frequent hospitalizations and contact with law enforcement related to untreated or under treated mental illness," the staff report read. "Laura's Law requires action by the county board of supervisors to authorize implementation."

AB 1976 passed in August 2020 and will go into effect on July 1. Under that law, counties have to implement AOT, or Laura's Law, or opt out by a resolution 60 days prior to July 1 that includes a statement of reasons.

The reasons recommended to Sutter County to opt out include: SYBH has rigorous outreach and engagement, which brings individuals with behavioral health conditions into voluntary treatment and reached 916 individuals in fiscal year 2019/2020; Laura's Law services are superfluous in that they duplicate services that SYBH and Health and Human Services already provide; and without additional funding, current behavioral health services from SYBH would be reduced with the implementation of AOT and would tax an impacted system, according to the staff report.

Yuba County Sheriff Wendell Anderson said the county jail provides mental health services and deputies are trained on how to deal with mental health calls for service. He said mental health related calls for service are common for sheriff's office personnel to respond to.

Those calls include family members calling about another family member with mental health issues or mental health influencing the actions of an individual committing a crime.

"It's becoming more and more frequent," Anderson said.

A challenge for the sheriff's office is waiting on the Department of State Hospitals to admit incarcerated individuals into their facilities to take the burden off of the local jurisdiction, Anderson said.

"I think it's important to note that we deal with it with mechanisms in jail," Anderson said.

The Sutter County Sheriff's Office did not respond for comment.

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