A state bill to help the mental health crisis passed the Assembly floor on Wednesday with support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. It now moves to the state Senate for approval.
Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas had motioned in January to sponsor Assembly Bill 1971, which would amend the state’s definition of ‘gravely disabled’ to help the county provide critical medical care for the mentally ill.
Per a recommendation by the Los Angeles County of Department of Mental Health the definition of gravely disabled would now include, “a condition in which a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal needs for food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment where the lack or failure of such treatment may result in substantial physical harm or death.”
Barger said that more than 830 homeless people died on the streets of L.A. County last year, and that with proper medical attention, those deaths could have been prevented.
“Allowing the most vulnerable to languish and even die on the streets without a lifeline to medical care is inhumane,” she said. “With today’s action, we can move forward to employ an effective approach to help deliver life-saving treatment and care for those desperately in need and add California to 37 other states who consider medical treatment a basic human need for those suffering from a mental illness.”
The supervisors originally approved a motion by Barger from October 2017 that directed the department to work with mental health advocacy groups, civil rights organizations and other stakeholders to develop this legislative recommendation.
“Acknowledging that signs of physical harm due to self-neglect as a result of serious mental conditions are a rational and objective means for detecting grave disability,” said Jonathan Sherin, department director.
The bill would impose employ local agencies to establish procedures for evaluating an individual’s mental health, according to the bill’s text.
Numerous mental health professionals and advocates voiced support for the motion including Susan Patrovi, Medical Director of Homeless Healthcare LA, Brittney Weissman, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Los Angeles County Council and Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu.
The proposed addition was similar to criteria used in 37 states nationwide.