Before I make my exit for the month of November to take part in NaNoWriMo, let me leave you with something meaty to chew on while I’m offline.
In 2002, California passed legislation allowing judges to order involuntary treatment for people with severe mental illnesses if they have a history of being jailed, hospitalized or show violent behavior towards themselves or others. The law was dubbed “Laura’s Law” after Laura Wilcox, a college student who was shot to death in 2001 by a man with an untreated mental illness. It was modeled after “Kendra’s Law,” similar legislation passed in New York state. Short-term involuntary hospitalization was already legal in California in cases where patients had already shown they were a danger to themselves or others. But Laura’s Law was touted as a preventative measure allowing family members, mental health workers or parole officers to request treatment for the ill before they do anything harmful, especially in cases where a patient’s condition inhibits them from making rational decisions about treatment. The law, however, left it up to counties to decide if they want to implement it, and they’ve been reluctant to do so not only because it’s controversial in terms of civil rights but because of funding problems. Almost a decade later, only one of California’s 58 counties has adopted it, Wilcox’s Nevada County. A second is running a pilot program.
Obviously, there are two sides in this debate.
On the one hand, if someone is a threat to themselves or others, isn’t it a duty of society to see that laws are put in place to protect the person as well as the masses?
On the other hand, there are laws in place to protect this thing called Civil Rights.
Which side are you on in this debate?
Do you oppose it because it is not only an incursion on Civil Rights, but has the ability to needlessly propagate the stigma that the mentally ill population as a whole is incapable of making decisions? Does the notion of involuntary treatment really have the ability to, “…stem violence against those with psychiatric disabilities or the homeless…?” Is it a throwback to earlier times when individuals could be institutionalized against their will?
Or, are you in favor of the adoption of a Laura’s Law / Kendra’s Law since a study (in NY State) showed a significant reduction in the number of days mental patients spent in jail, in the hospital and on the streets? Do you believe involuntary treatment could save money by reducing the need for intervention by law enforcement, medical emergency personnel, the courts, and lessens the trauma and anguish of family and friends?