‘Laura's Law' Implemented in San Diego County

The law could potentially reduce San Diego County's homeless population

A law that could potentially make our county safer and reduce our homeless population is now implemented in San Diego County after years of serious debate. 

“It’s been a long battle, at least six or seven years,” Michael Plopper, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital said.

Plopper says before Laura’s Law, there were very few options of treatment for the severely mentally ill who didn’t want help. 

“Laws only allow us to keep a person in the hospital for 17 days, and beyond that we can keep them in the hospital if they’re gravely disabled and placed on conservatorship. There’s no conservatorship for a person who is dangerous to themselves or others, there’s no other method to treat them in the community than Laura’s Law,” Plopper said.

Laura’s Law is a state law that provides assisted out-patient treatment for the severely mentally ill who refuse help. It impacts those people with severe mental illness that have a history of refusing to accept treatment and who have recent history of psychiatric hospitalizations, incarcerations, or threats or attempts of serious violence toward themselves or others. Those patients would be compelled by court order to receive treatment if they pose a danger to themselves or others. 

The Board of Supervisors voted to implement the law last year. It was implemented in San Diego County on April 1st, 2016. 

According to Alfredo Aguirre, the County’s Behavioral Health Director, prior to the start of the program, 21 individuals were identified as potential Laura’s Law candidates. Then, between April 1st and April 30th, an additional 24 individuals had been identified as potential Laura’s Law candidates, making the total of 45 potential candidates. 

After further evaluation, only two individuals are now candidates for Laura’s Law. Aguirre says the “black robe effect” can motivate patients to comply with treatment before having to result in assisted out-patient treatment, or Laura’s Law. 

Presentations on Laura’s Law have been provided to the Public Safety Group, Division Chiefs of the Probation Department, and PERT.

Aguirre says police departments won’t need to conduct business any different than normal. If they identify a person who may be eligible, they will do an In-Home Outreach Team (IHOT) referral. 

If you or someone you know may be a candidate for Laura’s Law, please contact one of the IHOT Teams. MHS, Inc. serves the North Inland, North Central and North Coastal regions of the county, (760) 591-0100; Telecare serves the Central, Southern, and East regions of the county, (619) 961-2120.

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