No More Excuses in California: Assisted Outpatient Treatment

The California Legislature helped put an end to the argument there’s no funding for Laura’s Law in California this week when it passed SB 585. The measure clarifies that the state’s Mental Health Services Act funds may be used to pay for assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) programs.

Cost concerns are among the top reasons states and counties give for not implementing AOT, but they are crumbling not only in California but elsewhere.

Just last month, a comprehensive new study of AOT in New York reported net cost savings of 50-62% for qualifying individuals living in the community under an assisted outpatient treatment order. Now, California lawmakers have swept aside the excuse that the state’s MHSA pool of mental health money cannot be tapped for AOT.

“Unfortunately, compassion for those suffering from the consequences of untreated mental illness has not been enough to motivate some communities to put their AOT laws to work,” said Doris A. Fuller. “Like the Duke University study of AOT costs, the California legislature’s explicit authorization for counties to use MHSA funds for Laura’s Law provides a fiscal motivation.”

Research has found that court-ordered outpatient treatment reduces psychiatric hospitalization and lengths of stay, arrests, incarceration, homelessness, victimization, violence and other consequences of not treating people with mental illness who don’t recognize they are ill or who otherwise struggle to adhere to treatment while living in the community.

The State Assembly approved the bill on a 68-4 bipartisan vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for consideration.

–Treatment Advocacy Center

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