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LA County Board of Supes to Vote on Laura’s Law… as Sheriff Candidate McDonnell Commits Strong Support for Mental Health Diversion

July 15th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


EXPANDING LAURA’S LAW IN LA COUNTY

On Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors will consider the issue of how best to help LA County’s mentally ill from two different perspectives.

First of all the supervisors are expected to vote to expand and fund something called the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Demonstration Project Act of 2002—more commonly known as Laura’s Law.

Although Laura’s Law was passed by the California legislature in 2002, the statute was controversial, thus the state gave counties the option of adopting it or not.

In brief, Laura’s Law allows a family member, roommate, mental health provider, police officer or probation officer to ask the court to order a seriously mentally ill person into outpatient treatment. The law only applies to a narrow subset of people—namely the mentally ill who have landed in jail or in hospitals, or who appear to be a danger to themselves or others, but who don’t qualify for a “5150,” which mandates a psych hold. Moreover, the court can issue such an order for treatment only after an extensive and multi-layered review process.

Los Angeles and Yolo Counties already have pilot programs. Orange County has adopted the whole thing, as has Nevada County, which was where the law originated.

San Francisco approved the provision last Tuesday.

If the LA supervisors approve the expansion of the Laura’s Law pilot,—as they are expected to do—the county is expected to do approximately 500 evaluations for the program per year (up from around 50 evaluations per year during the pilot period). The expanded program would allow for around 300 people to be enrolled in outpatient treatment any given time (up from 20), plus 60 crisis residential beds.

Some mental health advocates have been adamantly opposed to Laura’s Law maintaining that it not only violates the rights of the mentally ill, it also compromises any therapeutic relationship by forcing people into treatment.

However, a similar law enacted in New York in 1999, called Kendra’s law, featured few of the feared problems and showed a range of improved outcomes for the mentally ill involved.

Some of the main supporters of Laura’s Law have been family members who say they need better tools to keep their loved ones out of jail, and off the street when they are too ill to realize they need treatment.

Supervisor Supervisor Michael Antonovich has been the board’s lead supporter for Laura’s Law.


NOW WHAT ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH DIVERSION?

The second important discussion at Tuesday’s meeting regarding mental health will be centered on a board-requested status report from District Attorney Jackie Lacey, in which she is expected to present recommendations for “the next interim steps to be taken for mental health diversion in Los Angeles County.”

Although most of the board members seem to be, at least in general theory, for the notion of diverting some of LA County’s non-violent mentally ill away from the jails and into community treatment, the supes have been short on action on the matter. A couple of months ago, however, after voting to go ahead with a giant jail expansion plan, the board did pass a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to ask DA Lacey to produce a 60-day progress report about what might be done with this whole diversion matter—hence Tuesday’s presentation. Yet, since the board has since showed no interest in factoring diversion into their calculations when ordering up a new jail, it was hard to view their commitment to the matter as full-throated.

Thus it was heartening when, on Monday, Long Beach Chief of Police and candidate for LA County Sheriff, Jim McDonnell, put out a strong policy statement supporting Lacey’s work and calling in no-nonsense terms for LA County to “fund and promote an effective network of treatment programs for the mentally ill which will provide them with the support, compassion and services they need to avoid our justice system.”

In other words, it’s time for a firm commitment by the county.

“Our Sheriff’s Department currently runs what amounts to the largest mental health institution in the nation,” wrote McDonnell, “yet our jails are not a place for those who are suffering from mental illness and who would be better served by community-based treatment options that can address the underlying problems, while still maintaining community safety. I applaud District Attorney Jackie Lacey for her leadership and her vision in developing a comprehensive plan for mental health diversion in Los Angeles County.

McDonnell also praised the recent report released by the ACLU and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health,—which provided research showing why diversion works far better for non-violent inmates, and outlined the success of diversion programs in Miami-Dade and San Francisco. (Note: The ACLU report has already drawn support from organizations and individuals such as Chairman of the LA Police Commission, Steve Soboroff.)

As for the nuts and bolts of how he would aid in getting a comprehensive diversion program funded if he is elected to head the sheriff’s department, McDonnell said that the position of sheriff offers the “influence and the ability” to help “create priorities in the county.” He also stressed that all funding need not come from the county alone, that he’d seek out other sources—noting that once those sources saw that formerly siloed groups like the sheriff’s department, the DA’s office and the board of supervisors were able to “talk to each other” and work “collaboratively and strategically” on the issue, funds were far more likely to be forthcoming.

“I think what we do here will be watched carefully by other jurisdictions across the state, and really across the country,” said McDonnell.

We think so too.

All the more reason to get going sooner rather than later.


PS: IF WE NEED ONE MORE REASON TO PUSH HARD AND SOON for a robust mental health diversion program, let us not forget that, in June, the U.S. Department of Justice found that Los Angeles County violates the constitutional rights of inmates by failing to provide adequate mental health care and appropriate suicide prevention policies in its jails. The DOJ also encouraged the county’s efforts to expand diversion programs for those inmates with mental illness.



AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC: BRUTAL ATTACKS BY STAFF ON MENTALLY ILL INMATES IN NY’S RIKER’S ISLAND “COMMON OCCURRENCES”

As the LA County Board of Supervisors considers the above issues pertaining to LA County’s mentally ill, the results of a 4-month investigation into violence by staff against the mentally ill of Riker’s Island (the nation’s second largest jail) seemed perfectly—and painfully—timed to demonstrate the problem with using jails as default mental health facilities.

Here’s a clip from the opening of the alarming NY Times report, written by Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz:

After being arrested on a misdemeanor charge following a family dispute last year, Jose Bautista was unable to post $250 bail and ended up in a jail cell on Rikers Island.

A few days later, he tore his underwear, looped it around his neck and tried to hang himself from the cell’s highest bar. Four correction officers rushed in and cut him down. But instead of notifying medical personnel, they handcuffed Mr. Bautista, forced him to lie face down on the cell floor and began punching him with such force, according to New York City investigators, that he suffered a perforated bowel and needed emergency surgery.

Just a few weeks earlier, Andre Lane was locked in solitary confinement in a Rikers cellblock reserved for inmates with mental illnesses when he became angry at the guards for not giving him his dinner and splashed them with either water or urine. Correction officers handcuffed him to a gurney and transported him to a clinic examination room beyond the range of video cameras where, witnesses say, several guards beat him as members of the medical staff begged for them to stop. The next morning, the walls and cabinets of the examination room were still stained with Mr. Lane’s blood.

The assaults on Mr. Bautista and Mr. Lane were not isolated episodes. Brutal attacks by correction officers on inmates — particularly those with mental health issues — are common occurrences inside Rikers, the country’s second-largest jail, a four-month investigation by The New York Times found.

Reports of such abuses have seldom reached the outside world, even as alarm has grown this year over conditions at the sprawling jail complex. A dearth of whistle-blowers, coupled with the reluctance of the city’s Department of Correction to acknowledge the problem and the fact that guards are rarely punished, has kept the full extent of the violence hidden from public view.

But The Times uncovered details on scores of assaults through interviews with current and former inmates, correction officers and mental health clinicians at the jail, and by reviewing hundreds of pages of legal, investigative and jail records. Among the documents obtained by The Times was a secret internal study completed this year by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which handles medical care at Rikers, on violence by officers. The report helps lay bare the culture of brutality on the island and makes clear that it is inmates with mental illnesses who absorb the overwhelming brunt of the violence.

The study, which the health department refused to release under the state’s Freedom of Information Law, found that over an 11-month period last year, 129 inmates suffered “serious injuries” — ones beyond the capacity of doctors at the jail’s clinics to treat — in altercations with correction department staff members.

The report cataloged in exacting detail the severity of injuries suffered by inmates: fractures, wounds requiring stitches, head injuries and the like. But it also explored who the victims were. Most significantly, 77 percent of the seriously injured inmates had received a mental illness diagnosis….

Posted in 2014 election, Board of Supervisors, District Attorney, Jim McDonnell, LA County Board of Supervisors, LA County Jail, LASD, mental health, Mental Illness | 19 Comments »

19 Responses

  1. Mike J Says:

    Hey wla, you forgot to cover this article about the LASD. Maybe you felt it’s not that important to report? Don’t worry I’ll share it with everyone else.

    “CRIMINAL CONDUCT AND A TOXIC CULTURE”

    http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-jail-gassing-20140711-story.html

  2. Just another poster Says:

    Hey Mike J. I saw that article a few days ago and heard about it on Bill Carol Show. I was wondering if WLA was going to be report on it. I won’t be holding my breath though. It’s ONLY Deputies getting assaulted. No story here.

  3. Dulce Says:

    Most liberal fish wraps won’t report on this topic. If they do, a “justifiable” reason for these assaults would most likely be reported. When you live in a world in which law enforcement is viewed as an evil entity and the ACLU is touted as a credible organization, cops are the Gestapo and criminals can do no wrong. Until some thug shoves a gun in your ear and steals your Birkenstocks.

  4. Bandwagon Says:

    Feeling a little unappreciated are we? Ok guys, I appreciate everything you do and know you have a very hard and dangerous job. Now stop your crying and go back to work!

  5. A Simple Man Says:

    I think the thugs have more ethics and morality than the Sheriffs who allegedly are slinging dope in the jails, beating people and doing all sorts of other alleged criminal acts under color of authority. Then of course you have other Sheriffs who resemble law enforcement, but turn there backs when they see other police doing illegal things because they lack the courage to do anything….Can you really trust those type of Deputies ??? At least with a criminal, you know what they are.

    Let’s all hope that Leavins,Long,Craig, and the rest get long sentences so that they set an example to others of what happens when you do wrong.

  6. Bandwagon Says:

    Simple man: I guess you could call 911 and hope an ethical thug shows up. Best be careful choosing your poison.

  7. Oh Well Says:

    Bandwagon.
    “Now stop your crying and go back to work”.

    WOW.

    That sounds a lot like telling somebody “Maybe a trip to Target for some big girl panties will help”.

    On the way to yoga class tonight I’ll contemplate on whether I’d rather be a Jack-hole or a hypocrite.

  8. Dulce Says:

    Simple man…..you are just that…

  9. Bandwagon Says:

    I don’t get ur anology. But I would prefer to be a Jack-Hole. A badge I would wear with honor.

  10. Oh Well Says:

    Bandwagon,
    Your response to deputies who feel the need to vent about the reality that there are people who don’t understand or appreciate what we do has inspired me. It truly has.

    Intheknow, GoMcdonnell and any of you other civilians on the LASD who feel the need to vent about how some sworn personnel treat you:
    Feeling a little unappreciated are you? Ok guys, I appreciate everything you do and know you have a very hard job, but at least it’s not dangerous. Now stop your crying and go back to work!

    Thanks Bandwagon. That’s exactly what I was trying to convey to Intheknow and GoMcDonnell. I didn’t know how to say it near as succinctly as you did. Thanks again.
    Once again I have learned from my fellow deputy. This time I learned from Bandwagon. It’s a career long process.

  11. Bandwagon Says:

    Oh Well: Complaining has always been part of a deputy’s make up. That is what we do along with taking bad guys to jail (except for job action in 2004). My issue was the attempt by the above listed individuals accusing Celeste of being biased and anti law enforcement. You’re a smart guy, I’m sure you figured that one out. But as always, I’m glad I brought some clarity to the issue. Lastly, there is an old saying in law enforcement ” if you want to be appreciated, be a fireman”.

  12. Oh Well Says:

    Bandwagon,
    “Maybe a trip to Target for some big girl panties will help”.
    “Now stop your crying and go back to work”.

    Very similar responses, IN TONE, to people who complain about things that inherently go along with their jobs. The feeling that they are not appreciated by some people.
    One of those responses qualifies, in your opinion, the person giving it as an asshole.
    The other you obviously find applicable and appropriate because of course, now it’s YOU that recognize when people are doing nothing more than complaining and venting about the reality of life that some people won’t appreciate the job they do.

    Think about it.
    Welcome aboard.

  13. Oh Well Says:

    Intheknow and GoMcDonnell,
    Like Bandwagon says, if you want to be appreciated be a fireman.

    You see. Even some deputies feel unappreciated and mistreated. That’s what I was trying to explain to you two way back several threads ago. That problem isn’t unique to the job you do. That problem isn’t unique to sworn personnel on the LASD either. Bandwagon really knows how to cut to the chase. He has definitely brought clarity to the issue and has explained both his and my feelings about your complaints of how you feel about being treated less than respectfully by some sworn personnel.

    “Now stop your crying and go back to work. If you want to be appreciated be a fireman”.

    THAT sums it up perfectly and could not be more applicable to both your and the sworn’s complaints.
    We have Bandwagon to thank for breaking it down for us, keeping it real and bringing clarity to the issue.
    I for one truly appreciate it. I appreciate him helping me out and getting my back regarding this issue.
    Thanks again Bandwagon.

  14. Bandwagon Says:

    Oh Well: You have an innate desire to always be right. A character flaw you may want to improve on. For the record I never mentioned your “Target” comment in any of my responses. I disagreed with your opinion that being rude to civilians is a fact of life. Therefore your comments regarding my hypocrisy is without merit.

  15. Bandwagon Says:

    Oh Well: You remind me of the knight in the Monty Python skit who refuses to quit even after losing both his legs and arms.

  16. Oh Well Says:

    Bandwagon,
    I am wrong often. I don’t have a problem admitting when I’m wrong. I don’t need to be right. I need to be honest first and foremost. What I have a problem with is when I go out of my way to explain, albeit with some sarcasm throw in, how some people being rude to others in the workplace or not appreciating what you do is a sad fact of life and I’m taken to task for it. What makes it ironic is one of those taking me to task for it is the same guy who has no problem relaying the same message, in the same tone, to deputies when they complain about not being appreciated. That would be you Bandwagon. Just so happens this time I happen to be right. It’s all there in writing. Go back and read our exchanges when this topic first came up if you need to review it. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
    Is it really my character flaw of needing to be right that is apparent here? Maybe so. I’ll have to look at that. I would suggest you examine what character flaw it is on your part that refuses to admit you do things you call others an asshole for. Many would call it hypocritical.
    I don’t need to be right. Being right comes down the line on my list of priorities. I need to be honest, ethical, courageous, consistent, compassionate and polite first. If I happen to be right after that, it’s an added bonus. It’s not a necessity.
    Could your problem be that I have called a spade a spade this time, and it makes you uncomfortable?
    Relax friend. Try some yoga classes or breathing exercises. Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes I am wrong. In fact, I’m wrong often. Is this one of those times? Are you ever wrong? Hypocritical?
    You be the judge. You’re the one that has to live with your truth.

  17. Oh Well Says:

    Bandwagon,
    P.S. In asking the question in the last paragraph above I’m not looking for an answer. It’s not necessary. I don’t need the questions affirmed or refuted. Just posing the question is good enough for me. The suggestion that we all, even you, need to examine our behavior and character flaws was the intended message through the questions asked. Nobody’s perfect. Not even you Bandwagon. We all have egos. Sometimes they cause us to do or say things we otherwise wouldn’t. We all do it, even you Bandwagon. It’s the human condition.
    I’m ready to move on.
    No hard feelings on my part. This has been a very healthy debate/discussion in my eyes. I will definitely examine my character flaws and reevaluate if I’m needing to be right too much.
    Thanks for taking part in the exchange. I’m serious. Thanks. I want people to challenge my opinions, ideas, behavior and motives when they feel it’s needed. I need honest consistent self evaluation and you have reminded me of that.
    Without it, I may turn out like Leroy Baca. Delusional while being an egomaniac. That’s a dangerous combo.

  18. Just another poster Says:

    I’m sure WLA isn’t biased. I do find it odd with articles of our racist K-9s that bite minorities at a disproportionate rate, yet I still have not seen anything on the current assaults on deputies in jails.

  19. Bandwagon Says:

    Oh Well: I also appreciate a healthy debate. I too have many faults, but admitting I am wrong is not one of them. I disagree with your assessment I was hypocritical. I may be a “jack-hole” with some of my comments, but my intent is to stir lively debate. By the way, I have been taking yoga classes for over 10 years now.

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