San Diego County may soon see a big shift in the way patients with mental illness are treated as county supervisors work to implement Laura’s Law by next year.
The California state law, which passed in 2002, allows courts to require people with serious mental illness to accept treatment as a condition of living in the area. San Diego has not implemented the measure.
Supervisor Dave Roberts leans on his own, terrifying experience when he talks about mental health care. He was the victim of a random attack last October on his way to a speaking engagement.
“He jumped out of a van and went at me with a knife. It was noon on a Saturday,” said Roberts.
His attacker is now getting mental health care in prison. The bizarre experience has made him passionate about mental health, he told NBC 7.
“It literally could happen to anybody. Of course, I never thought anything like this would happen to me,” Roberts said.
A similar incident happened earlier this month near the UTC mall, when Odie Miller, 20, allegedly stabbed a biotech executive at random in the middle of the day. The suspect’s father says he told his son something like this would have to happen before Miller accepted treatment.
Just a year ago, the mother of 22-year-old Evan Kwik begged the county for some kind of change after her son shot two sheriff’s deputies in a 10-hour SWAT standoff before killing himself.
All cases may have been prevented if Laura’s Law had been in effect in the county, officials say.
Roberts and County Behavioral Health Director Alfredo Aguirre think the measure could move forward as early as next year.
“I’m feeling optimistic. The economy is looking relatively stable and there’s been improvements, but we are feeling more confident about that,” said Aguirre.
Roberts hopes to bring Laura’s Law before the board of supervisors in the next six months, though he admits there are still several issues the county needs to deal with before a decision is made.
He said Laura’s Law will not only help public safety, but county and municipal budgets as well.
“You won’t have to do SWAT teams if you have a situation, you won’t have to do incarcerations, you won’t have to do other types of activities,” said Roberts. “That’s another important aspect that you have to look at.”
Until recently, only one county in California has implemented Laura’s Law. Now several large counties are going forward with it, including Orange County, San Francisco County and Los Angeles County.