On Anniversary of Passing of Laura Wilcox, Senator Yee Announces Bill to Help Implement Laura's Law

January 10, 2013

Legislation will remove unnecessary and cumbersome barriers to implementation of Laura’s Law

SACRAMENTO – Today, on the 12 year anniversary of a mass shooting in Nevada County that resulted in a number of injuries and the death of three people including Laura Wilcox, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) announced legislation that will help counties implement Laura’s Law, a program that allows enforcement of Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) orders for some potentially dangerous mentally ill patients.

Specifically, Yee plans to remove unnecessary and cumbersome barriers to implementation of Laura’s Law, such as allowing counties to use existing mental health funds to implement the program as well as removing the requirement of a vote of the local county board of supervisors.

“While we should not draw direct correlations between mental illness and all acts of violence, both mental health treatment and reasonable gun control should be part of a comprehensive response to protect children and families,” said Yee. “It is imperative that we find ways to implement Laura’s Law throughout California.”

Laura's Law allows counties to assure that court-ordered help reaches people who are not complying with voluntary treatment programs, have a history of hospitalization, arrest or violent behavior and are potentially dangerous to themselves or others.

Many counties have failed to implement Laura's Law despite the fact that the policy has proven to result in less hospitalization, less homelessness, fewer arrests, less incarceration, increased collaboration between the mental health and justice systems, as well as a more efficient and effective cross-agency delivery system.

Wilcox, a 19-year old high school valedictorian, was shot to death at a Nevada County mental health clinic in 2001 by a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who consistently refused treatment.

“Senator Yee's bill will make it easier for counties to implement Laura's Law and will get persons with severe mental illness engaged in needed treatment,” said Amanda Wilcox, Laura’s mother.

“It’s time we get serious about providing the benefits of Laura’s Law more fully in California,” said Randall Hagar of the California Psychiatric Association. “We can do a better job of protecting both patients and the public from the effects of untreated mental illness, among which are arrest, incarceration and hospitalizations that are often too late.”

While Los Angeles County has initiated a small pilot program, only Nevada County has full implemented Laura’s Law. As result, Nevada County has won state and national awards, including the National Association of Counties’ Achievement Award in Health.

New York's Kendra's Law, which Laura's Law is patterned after, has shown tremendous success. Statewide data from Kendra's Law conclusively demonstrates that assisted outpatient treatment significantly reduces the severest consequences for participants who formerly had rejected treatment: 74% fewer people experienced homelessness, 77% fewer experienced psychiatric hospitalization, 83% fewer experienced arrest, 87% fewer experienced incarceration, 55% fewer attempted suicide or self-harm, 49% fewer abused alcohol, 48% fewer abused drugs, 47% fewer physically harmed others, 43% fewer threatened other with physical harm, and 46% fewer damaged or destroyed property.

Yee has also introduced SB 47 to prohibit semi-automatic weapons like AR-15s and AK-47s from having “bullet buttons,” which allow the gun to be easily reloaded with multiple rounds of ammunition. SB 47 will also prohibit add-on kits that allow high-capacity magazines.

Yee has also announced plans for legislation that will require more consistent registration and background checks for gun ownership and another bill that will toughen safety requirements.

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Contact: Adam Keigwin,
916-651-4008