Over $7 million in Mental Health Services Act Funds going to prevent counties from using Laura’s Law to help persons with serious mental illness who may become dangerous without it
Background: Laura’s Law allows courts to order--after extensive due process- very narrowly defined individuals who have serious mental illness and a past history of violence, dangerous behavior or needless hospitalizations to stay in treatment as a condition of staying in the community. It is only available “in order to prevent a relapse or deterioration that would be likely to result in grave disability or serious harm to himself or herself, or to others”. Laura’s Law helps the most seriously ill patients. Many are so ill, they don’t know they are ill and therefore refuse voluntary services.
After implementing Laura’s Law with MHSA funds, Nevada County Psychiatric Hospital Days decreased 46.7 percent; number of Incarceration Days decreased 65.1 percent, number of Homeless Days decreased 61.9 percent; number of Emergency Interventions decreased 44.1 percent. Laura’s Law saved $1.81-$.2.52 for ever dollar spent. “Receiving services under Laura’s Law caused a reduction in actual hospital costs of $213,300 and actual incarceration costs of $75,600”.
Commissioners gave over $7 million in MHSA funds to organizations –including their own- that are working to prevent counties from providing Laura’s Law services to individuals with serious mental illness who could benefit from them.
Disability Rights California – Eduardo Vega $3 million
During the period of our investigation, Disability Rights California received a $2.9 million in MHSA funds (via CalMHSA) ostensibly to “address stigma and discrimination by examining laws, policies, and practices”. DRC threatens counties that are considering implementing Laura’s Law, lobbies in favor of legislation to make Laura’s Law difficult to use, and spreads disinformation on Laura’s Law. Eduardo Vega was an Oversight Commissioner and board member of Disability Rights California.
California Network of Mental Health Clients – Sally Zinman/Delphine Brody $1.5 million
During the period of our investigation, under the guise of “reducing stigma”, $1,539,225 was given to California Network of Mental Health Clients, an organization that worked vigorously to prevent implementation of Laura’s Law. Two individuals associated with the Oversight Commission, Sally Zinman and Delphine Brody, were in CNMHC leadership positions. In addition to using the funds to support their work in opposing Laura’s Law, funds were diverted by other CNMHC employees to personal use.
Mental Health America (MHA) Associations – $3 million (MHA/CA) and $2.9 million (MHA/SF)
Multiple grants went to MHA/CA and subsidiaries in San Francisco, LA and elsewhere. Rusty Selix (ED, MHA/CA) and Eduardo Vega (MHA/SF) regularly lobby against Laura’s Law.
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