Recent shooting near UC Santa Barbara renews debate over Laura's Law

Laura's Law allows for court ordered treatment

SAN DIEGO - The recent shooting in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara has renewed debate over Laura's Law, which allows for court ordered treatment for the most severely mentally ill.

Theresa Bish's brother suffered from schizophrenia for more than twenty years.

"Fifteen of those (years), he was in denial. And he went on and off his medication repeatedly," Bish said.

He was also in and out of jail. In 2003, he took his own life.

She feels that legislation like Laura's Law could have helped him.

Laura's Law was named after Laura Wilcox. The 19-year-old was shot and killed by a man in Nevada County who refused psychiatric treatment.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has discussed the law, but did not take action to implement it.

More than a year ago, 10News sat down with Supervisor Dave Roberts, who wanted the law brought to San Diego County to help families.

"They need tools to be able to provide the services for their loved ones," Roberts said in March 2013.

However, on Wednesday, he admitted that there has "been a lot of controversy" and "a lot of roadblocks" to implementing the law.

Roberts said conditions under Laura's Law are strict.

"It's an extremely complicated piece of legislation," he said. "There's a long list of requirements and you have to meet every one of those requirements."

He said they are improving existing mental health programs, including expansion of the In-Home Outreach Team (IHOT).

The program matches families with a case manager to help those reluctant to receive mental health treatment find resources they need.

Bish says that is not enough.

"They keep throwing money at the wrong problem," she said.

Recently, Orange County became the first major metropolitan county in California to fully implement the law.

Although it appears Laura's Law has been pushed back in San Diego County for now, Roberts says the conversation is not over.

"As far as I'm concerned, it is not off the table. We're continuing to look for ways to make improvements," Roberts said.

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