County residents are invited to learn more about Laura's Law and voice any concerns or questions they may have about the provision of mental health care in the area during two community meetings in Ceres this month.
Laura's Law, which was adopted by the state in 2002, allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for people with serious mental disorders. Individual counties throughout California have the power to decide whether or not to implement the law, and Stanislaus County officials are currently exploring the issue, putting together a fact-finding process to determine if Laura's Law would benefit the area.
The community meetings, set for March 28 and 29, are a part of the fact-finding process said Debra Buckles, Public Guardian for the county. Those who attend the meetings will receive information about the law and how it works, and will be divided into focus groups to discuss any questions they may have in more detail.
"A big part of gathering information is based on how our community feels," said Buckles. "An important, valuable part of the whole process is getting community feedback."
To get a better understanding of the law, including implementation costs, Stanislaus County hired consulting firm The Results Group to lead the fact-finding process, and the group will lead both community meetings. In addition, the consultants will review how Laura's Law is used in other counties and weigh both advantages and disadvantages of adopting the law.
Upon completing the fact-finding process, the consultants will present the results to the Board of Supervisors which could be used to formulate a policy if Supervisors choose to adopt Laura's Law. Although an exact date for the presentation is not set, Buckles expects the process to be completed in a couple of months.
"Once we get the community input at these meetings, the process will move quickly," said Buckles.
In Stanislaus County, the law would apply to individuals who suffer from mental illness and repeatedly get arrested or hospitalized due to their failure to stay in treatment. Under the law, they would be court ordered to engage in assisted outpatient treatment.
The first community meeting will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday, March 28 at the Harvest Hall in Modesto, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Ceres. The Wednesday, March 29 meeting is set for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., also at the Harvest Hall. The public is requested to RSVP attendance at the meetings by contacting Teresa Garibay by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 525-6119.