Allen-sponsored bill extends law forcing treatment of mentally ill

SACRAMENTO — Whether forced treatment helps those with severe mental illness or violates their rights is at the heart of the debate over a bill passed Thursday by the Assembly.

AB1569 extends until 2017 a law that allows courts to mandate treatment for people with severe mental illness if they have history of violence or hospitalization. Laura's Law, which passed in 2002, is set to expire next year.

California's 58 counties are allowed to decide for themselves whether to implement the law. Only one, Nevada County, has done so. Counties are limited in how they can fund Laura's Law programs and cannot divert money from voluntary programs.

Assemblyman Mike Allen, D- Santa Rosa, said he sponsored the bill granting the extension because counties need to be able to compel people with severe and persistent mental illness to accept help.

"Laura's Law is simply a tool to provide this mentally ill population a needed treatment plan," he said during debate on the Assembly floor.

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