Longtime readers of this blog know that I have consistently supported the involuntary commitment of people who suffer from severe mental illness.
Faced with a choice between confiscating 300,000,000 guns and committing potentially homicidal schizophrenics against their will, I opt for the latter. More so since today’s medications can help these patients to get better and to function in society.
It’s a win/win, for the patient and for the community.
Now, I am pleasantly surprised to report that San Francisco—of all places-- has just passed a law allowing the forced commitment of the mentally ill.
Reuters has the story:
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which passes legislation for the California city and county, adopted by a vote of 9-2 a measure known as Laura's Law.
If given final approval it would allow court-ordered outpatient treatment for people with chronic and severe mental illness deemed a risk to themselves or others or who have been jailed or hospitalized more than once in the prior three years, among other conditions.
San Francisco legislator Mark Farrell, who proposed the legislation to the board, said the program would help vulnerable sick people "and provide the families the support they deserve".
Such people are clearly ill. They are most often suffering from a brain disease. They are incapable of making a free choice. A community that cares will help them, even if they refuse all assistance. It will not just leave them to fend for themselves.
Interestingly, the San Francisco law is modeled on a similar law in New York:
Modeled after a similar involuntary treatment law passed in New York in 1999, California lawmakers passed Laura's Law in 2002 after 19-year-old Laura Wilcox was shot and killed by a mentally ill patient at a Nevada County behavioral health clinic where she was an intern.
The state law allows family members, police officers or mental health professionals to file petitions requesting the court-mandated treatment of a mentally ill person.
Individual counties can opt out. Laura's Law has only been fully adopted by three California counties: Nevada, Orange, and Yolo. It is expected to receive final approval from supervisors next week and then be signed into law by San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, who has expressed support for the program.
Naturally, civil libertarians will do everything in their power to stop implementation:
The law's implementation has been slow and sparse due to the concerns about civil rights, resources and costs.
"This is the wrong direction for any community but especially a progressive community like San Francisco," said Mental Health Association of San Francisco Executive Director Eduardo Vega.
"There's no real doubt that this is a process that fosters stigma around mental illness," Vega told Reuters after the vote.
The law requires city health officials to offer a mental health patient voluntary treatment before being forced into an involuntary outpatient program.
It also appoints a three-person panel to each case, which includes a forensic psychiatrist who would review the case to determine if a court-mandate is necessary.
In other words, precautions exist within the law to prevent abuse.
Amazingly, director Vega believes that progressive communities should not be treating those whose illness makes them incapable of making a rational decision about treatment.
Progressive values demand that these suffering individuals—rest assured, they are suffering—be left to their own devices, regardless of the cost, to themselves or the community.
As for the notion that this stigmatizes mental illness, let’s be clear. Strictly speaking these people are suffering from a brain disease. There is no stigma attached to brain disease. An individual suffering from such a condition lacks free will and cannot be held responsible for his actions.
Anyone who believes that these patients are suffering from a mental illness and possess free will must hold them responsible for their aberrant actions. At that point they will effectively be stigmatized.
Treating them with the best available medication does not stigmatize them. It helps them; it relieves them of their pain; it allows them to function in society.
If you refuse to commit a psychotic killer involuntarily and he shoots up a school then you are saying that you are willing to sacrifice human lives in favor of a misguided idea. The shame should be yours, entirely.