Court-order mental health care OK in Orange County

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SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Orange County became the second California county Tuesday to move forward with a law that allows court-ordered treatment of the severely mentally ill even if they don’t want it.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to implement the so-called Laura’s Law, making it second to only tiny Nevada County to adopt a controversial program that some have said erodes the civil liberties of the mentally ill, the Orange County Register reported. The law was passed in 2002, but the state left it to individual counties to decide whether to adopt it.

The proposal before supervisors included $4.4 million per year to provide assessment and treatment for an estimated 120 people. More money will be needed for legal and other costs associated with the program, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Pressure to adopt the law in Orange County increased after the 2011 death of a 37-year-old mentally ill homeless man who died after a violent fight with police. Two officers were acquitted earlier this year in the death of Kelly Thomas.

Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas’ father, has said that the law, which allows family members, licensed mental health workers and police officers to make referrals, might have helped his son.

Some, however, have criticized Laura’s Law as violating the civil liberties of adult patients who may prefer to go untreated.

It seems like “an expensive government intervention into the private lives of citizens,” Richard Krzyzanowski of the California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations told the Times.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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