Time for reform of Laura's Law

Jan. 10 marked the 12th anniversary of the death of Laura Wilcox and two other people at a clinic in Nevada County.

They were shot by a man with severe mental illness who refused treatment. To prevent more tragedies, California passed Laura's Law in 2002, which was modeled after New York's Kendra's Law. It is intended to provide court-ordered outpatient treatment for people with severe mental illness who are potentially dangerous to themselves or others. To ensure patient protection, eligibility requirements for the program are very restrictive.

Nevada County and the state of New York have reduced hospitalizations, homelessness, incarcerations and violence for participants in their respective programs who had rejected treatment. But due to cumbersome barriers, including required approval of the county boards of supervisors, Laura's Law has been fully implemented only in Nevada County, and tragedies that it may have prevented have continued to occur throughout the state.

It is time to reform Laura's Law so that it will accomplish its intended purpose of protecting both the public and certain at-risk patients from the effects of untreated mental illness.

Karen Cohen

Walnut Creek

Sowell: Conspiracy under every rock


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I am referring to Thomas Sowell's Jan. 11 column, "How educators undermine American society."

How is it possible for Sowell, who is so well educated, to write with such purposeful obfuscation and with such blurred thinking?

Sowell appears to be able to find a conspiracy under every rock known to mankind. Sometimes even under small pebbles. Maybe he spends too much time at the beach.

Enough, I say, enough! Away with him.

John Fjeldstad

Brentwood

Police presence on campus could help

As a retired San Francisco school principal, I can report that school crime goes down and school safety is enhanced when a police officer is assigned to a school.

The time has come for elementary schools to receive assistance from police-school services. Sure it would cost, but the country wants safe schools for all students and the federal government might be in the mood to help right now.

A parked black-and-white police car in front of a school does wonders for deterring school crime and is a warning to outsiders not to enter the campus. The safety of all students and staff will be well served if the elementary schools can have a full-time police officer during school hours.

Currently, mainly secondary schools have some police programs operating. School officers can help train civilian school security personnel and assist school administrators develop functioning school safety plans.

President Barack Obama is right -- something needs to happen.

I have several grandchildren the age of the Sandy Hook kids and my wife is a classroom assistant in a Mt. Diablo elementary school.

Ron Cabral

Concord

Antidote to blues after the holidays

Instead of dreading a return to harsh reality, per Angela Hill's Jan. 6 column, why not celebrate the new year by joining the community of people who create positive change?

Contribute toward a cleaner, healthier environment, help people with food and shelter, improve parks -- pick your cause. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday is the perfect cure for the empty feelings many experience after the December holiday extravagance.

If you think shoreline cleanups are all about slime and caustic debris, then you haven't been to one of our events. Yes, there are fast-food wrappers, straws and cigarette butts to pick up, but also picture hundreds of people, of all ages, creeds and colors working together with a backdrop of sparkling bay water and scenic views.

Please join us: www.thewatershedproject.org. You are likely to gain a wonderful feeling of shared effort and accomplishment, and banish the blues. Yes, you can still have your cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows -- but sweeten by sharing with fellow volunteers.

Martha Berthelsen

Richmond Berthelsen is the public programs manager with The Watershed Project, Richmond