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Guest Column: Mental illness is a problem we should handle better in Sacramento County

By Sue Frost–
This summer the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will have a big decision to make regarding whether or not to implement “Laura’s Law.” I want to take this opportunity in my monthly article to explain to you what this law is, why this is coming before the Board of Supervisors, and why it is such a big deal.

Laura’s Law is named for 19-year-old Laura Wilcox, who was a college student working in a Nevada County mental-health clinic in 2001 when she and two others were shot and killed by a man with untreated severe mental illness. After the incident, Laura’s parents chose to advocate for assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) for individuals who meet strict legal criteria and who, as a result of their mental illness, are unable to voluntarily access community mental health services.

Since then, California counties have the option to “opt in” to the program, and that has been done so far in most of the larger counties. To date, Sacramento County has been one of the few larger counties who has not opted in and has never held a public hearing at the Board of Supervisors regarding whether or not to implement the program. This “opt in” would impact not just the unincorporated county, but cities like Citrus Heights as well.

This process changed, however, with the passage last year of AB 1976, which requires counties like Sacramento to hold public hearings at the Board of Supervisors about whether we will “opt in” or “opt out,” and if we choose to “opt out” we have to provide specific reasons for this to the State. The deadline for Sacramento County to have this hearing and formally decide will be July 1 of this year.

Earlier this month a mentally ill homeless man assaulted a child on Freeport Blvd. in Sacramento, only to be released back into the public in less than 24 hours – and this was after he had been captured and released previously for assault and battery of another woman. As a former emergency room nurse, I understand firsthand that there are people living in our community who cannot take care of themselves, and they desperately need help.

People like this should be able to get help before more crimes are perpetuated in our communities – it’s the compassionate and safe way to move forward. I do not know how I will vote on this issue when it comes before me, as I want to have an open ear to both sides as well as be able to fully comprehend the fiscal impacts, but I do know this is a growing problem and we should be handling this problem better than we are right now.

Sue Frost, supervisor
Sue Frost

Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost formerly served as a Citrus Heights councilwoman and currently represents District 4, which includes Citrus Heights. She can also be contacted at (916) 874-5491, or SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net.

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