Laura’s Law allows California’s counties to provide programs of intensive, court-ordered treatment in the community for individuals with mental illness who are, because of symptoms of their illness, least able to otherwise obtain timely intervention.
The law is named for Laura Wilcox Laura Wilcox who was a 19 year-old college sophomore working at Nevada County’s public mental health clinic during her winter break from college. On January 10, 2001, she and two other people were shot to death by Scott Harlan Thorpe, a 41-year old man who resisted his family’s attempt to force psychiatric treatment. Thorpe was found incompetent to stand trial and was sent to Atascadero State Hospital and was later transferred to California’s Napa State Hospital.
On February 4, 2015, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to implement Laura’s Law, making it the eighth county in California to embrace assisted outpatient treatment as a tool for making treatment possible for individuals with severe mental illness.
In Contra Costa it is estimated that at any given time, approximately 37 individuals would meet the criteria for assisted outpatient treatment, and an equal number of individuals would meet the same level of severity but who would likely participate voluntarily in services.
Over the next several months, the County will implement a three year program with $2.25 million program coming from State Mental Health Services Act funding and not from the County’s general fund.