Recently, Orange County became the first county in California to implement court-ordered treatment for the severely mentally ill. The new law is based on Nevada’s “Laura’s Law,” in which Laura Wilcox, a Nevada woman, was shot and killed by a mentally ill man in 2001.1
The Orange County Board of Supervisors’ unanimous passing of the law was influenced by the death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless Fullerton man who was beaten to death by police officers in 2011.2
Orange County will allocate $4.4 million of funds per year to provide assessment and treatment for an estimated 120 people under the Mental Health Services Act. The Orange County Board of Supervisors is also expected to allocate additional funds to hire up to four staff members in the public defender’s office and one in the county counsel’s office to manage legal issues associated with the program. The board plans to carefully track the outcomes of patients in the program to ensure its effectiveness.3
The law does not allow forced medication but does allow for the coordination and access to medication as part of a treatment plan. For a person to partake in the program, he or she must suffer from mental illness and be unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision. The person must also have a history of lack of compliance with treatment, a recent history of violence and have been jailed or hospitalized because of mental illness.4
The program is expected to be up and running by October.
The Positive Effects of Treating the Mentally Ill
Orange County’s new program will allow mentally ill criminals to get the treatment they need that is not currently in prisons and will help keep potentially dangerous people off the streets. As evidenced by Nevada’s Laura’s Law, ignoring mentally ill criminals and their need for treatment can have serious and tragic consequences.
Often times, people with mental illness can still be a functioning part of society by taking medication and undergoing treatment. However, lack of treatment or going off necessary medication for various reasons can result in these individuals posing a danger to themselves and others.
Ignoring the problem can only lead to an increase in crime and other violent acts like the Kelly Thomas incident. Many times, family members cannot convince their mentally ill loved ones to undergo treatment. Orange County’s program will not only ensure that mentally ill criminals be treated for their problems, but will also ensure the safety of the community.
Call Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending persons charged with crimes. A mental health treatment program may be available as an alternative to jail time. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.