A renewed push is on to implement a state law that would allow San Francisco to more easily force the mentally ill to take medication.
The discussion about the controversial state law, commonly referred to as Laura’s Law, comes at a time when The City is facing one of its worst deficits and spending could be cut for public health services.
“We all spend so much time talking about homeless issues, and we talk about affordable housing, and taking people from the streets and putting them into housing, but it becomes an issue if those people have mental illnesses and we are not dealing with those illnesses,” Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier said during Monday’s Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee hearing on Laura’s Law.
Laura’s Law, officially named Assembly Bill 1421, was passed by the state in 2002. It allows counties — if they so choose through a vote by their boards of supervisors — to more easily force mentally ill patients to take medication if they also establish assisted outpatient treatment programs.
But it’s unclear what impact the law — named after slain teenager Laura Wilcox — could have in San Francisco, and forcing the mentally ill to take medication is a controversial measure.
“There is, in this country, a negative history of using antipsychotic laws against women, against racial minorities,” Public Health Department Director Mitch Katz said. “There is a lot of negative baggage.”
Katz said he did not think the law was the best answer and suggested one solution was to try to make voluntary treatment more appealing.
“There is a very real problem. It’s not an easy problem to solve. The good part is that most people with serious mental illness voluntarily take treatment,” Katz said. “The most troubling aspect is that there is a small group who, because of their very disease, don’t want to take treatment.”