Laura’s Law is a 2002 state law intended to prevent people considered to be seriously mentally ill from falling through the cracks of county mental health programs in California.
The law allows for court-ordered, assisted outpatient treatment for those who meet certain criteria but still refuse treatment.
“My son, like most of these people that have mental illness problems, they are in denial”, says Richard Detty of Santa Maria, “they don’t realize that they are different, they think that they are normal, so trying to get him to voluntarily come in was impossible.”
Richard Detty talks about his son Clifford who, at age 46, died while under restraint and heavy medication at the Santa Barbara County Psychiatric Health facilty back in 2010.
“My wife and I tried from approximately 2001, or 2002, to get help from every agency in Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County to help him.”, Detty says, “we were turned away numerous times in both counties, there was no avenue for us to get any help for him.”
Richard Detty says his son Clifford’s life changed radically after he turned 36.
“He was probably one of the most popular people in his class all the way from kindergarten through high school”, Richard Detty says, “he was a great athlete, All League baseball at Righetti High School, scratch golfer, excellent surfer, loved to hunt, fish.”
Detty says his son was arrested multiple times by local law enforcement for minor offenses and was eventually diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic but consistently refused mental health treatment.
“Whenever we would contact these people, (county mental health), the first thing they would ask is how old is your son? And we’d say he’s over 18, and they’d say, sorry we can’t help you unless he comes in here and signs a form giving us permission where he comes with you.”
“I’m just a supporter of Laura’s Law, after what happened to my son”, Richard Detty says, “my son might be alive today if Laura’s Law had been in effect in Santa Barbara County at the time of his death.”
Richard Detty says he supports Santa Barbara County’s full implementation of Laura’s Law, regardless of the cost to the county, and any vstrain it may or may not place on the county’s exsiting mental health infrastructure.
“I think there’s a lot of people out there that need help and would probably benefit from mental treatment if they could be forced into it”, Richard Detty days, “most them are not going to volunteer, they are afraid of the system, they’re afraid to go to these shelters a lot of them, the don’t want to get on these rolls or in the computer.”
Laura’s Law is also a public safety issues for local law enforcement after two mass murders in the County in the past five months.
Six people were killed last May in Isla Vista in a murderous rampage by 22 year old Eliott Rodger who later shot himself to death after being cornered by Sheriff’s Deputies.
Interviews with Rodger’s parents later revealed their frutiless efforts to get their son adequate mental health treatment.
Last month, 45 year old Nicolas Holzer stabbed to death his two young boys and his own mother and father in the home they shared together in Goleta.
Court documents reveal warning signs about Nicolas Holzer’s mental health leading up to his shocking slaughter of his family.
Santa Barbara County District Attorney says Laura’s Law could be another tool to help provide treatment to those in need before its too late noting that Nevada County in northern California is the only county in the state to fully embrace Laur’s Law.
“Essentially after the mass murders in Isla Vista, I contacted Supervisor Farr and explained that I thought it was time for the County to take another look at Laura’s Law, and that I knew that Nevada County, California had been successful in their implentation of it”, Dudley told County Supervisors Tuesday morning, “all of the stakeholders are going to have to consider a couple of things, one is, what are the costs involved and who’s going to pay for it, and the other is how many potential patients or clients do we have for Laura’s Law?”
DA Dudley says while there may be cost-savings in other areas of county government, it will be up to the Board of Supervisors to decide when and if Santa Barbara County embraces Laura’s Law and the unknown costs that come along with it when it takes up the matter again in the next several months.
Part of the criteria necessary for treament under Laura’s Law includes having been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward, jailed or attempting to carry out violent acts against themselves or others.
Richard Detty says he hopes Laura’s Law will help prevent other families from going through the nightmare that he went through.
“This thing about waiting until someone injures themselves or others before they do anything is ridiculous”, Detty says.
Laura’s Law was named after Laura Wilcox, a mental health worker who was killed by a man who had refused psychiatric treatment.