County approves mental health funding, but not without controversy
Some push for 'Laura's Law'
Last Updated: 93 days ago
SAN DIEGO - One in five people suffer from a mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Theresa Bish's brother suffered from schizophrenia. Vincent would go on and off medication.
"He cycled in and out of jails and in and out of hospitals over a 15-year time frame," Bish said.
He committed suicide in 2003. Theresa feels he needed Laura's Law, which would enforce court-ordered outpatient treatment.
"It is horrifying to watch a family member deteriorate," Bish said.
Currently, Laura's Law is implemented only in Nevada County in Northern California. That is where Laura Wilcox – for whom the law is named – was shot and killed by a mentally unstable man.
"It's not only an extremely complex issue, but emotional issue," said county supervisor Dave Roberts, who was talking about what is needed to improve mental health services.
The Board of Supervisors recently approved looking into Laura's Law in San Diego County, but it could awhile before the law is fully enforced locally.
"There are some legislative challenges that we're going to be working with our assembly members, and state senators up in Sacramento," Roberts said.
The county supervisors did approve expansion of the IHOT team, or the In-Home Outreach Team.
It matches families with a case manager to help those reluctant to receive mental health treatment find the resources they need.
Dr. Piedad Garcia, assistant deputy director for county behavioral health services, touted the benefits of the program.
"The fact [is] that we empower families with education, with resources, and that we’re attentive to their needs," Dr. Garcia said, speaking about IHOT.
"It has been a godsend to us," said Pam, who only wanted to use her first name.
Pam’s sister-in-law suffers from bipolar disorder and uses the program.
"The key is that they take the time," Pam said.
IHOT will serve more areas of the county with the recent approval of funds by county supervisors. The board approved $2.3 million in funding for mental health programs. County staff will provide quarterly reports to monitor the program's progress.
But Bish, a former San Diego Mental Health Advisory Board member, says the voluntary program is not as effective as Laura's Law, which can be enforced. She believes Laura's Law is better use of taxpayer money and could have helped save her brother's life.
"He would have stood a chance, you know?" Bish said.
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