On Tuesday, Alameda County Board of Supervisors will meet at 10:30 a.m. at 1221 Oak St., Oakland, to listen to our community and vote on AB1421, Laura's Law, as recommended by our county's Behavioral Health Care Department.

Laura's Law was passed in California in 2002, but it was left up to each county to adopt it. It allows counties to implement court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment programs for some suffering from serious mental illness.

To qualify, a person must have a serious mental illness and a recent history of repeated psychiatric hospitalizations, jail, or acts, threats or attempts of serious violent behavior toward self or others.

If criteria are met, a judge can mandate that the individual interact with a treatment team that will help provide counseling, treatment, access to housing and other forms of support.

The goal of this program is to engage the individual and to keep the person stable and out of crisis or a tragedy.

The law compels engagement, but ensures personal human rights. It does not force medication, and each individual has a public defender.

Laura's Law is a compassionate and supportive program that helps some of our most seriously and persistently mentally ill who are not able to engage in the many voluntary programs because some individuals are not able to recognize they are ill.


Advertisement

Doctors refer to this symptom as anosognosia, and it is the same part of the brain that is ill that does not allow the person to understand they have an illness.

My grandson became ill with schizophrenia just after high school. He did not understand he was ill and, therefore, would not engage in treatment or medication.

No matter what his parents did, they could not get the help he needed given our current mental health system and laws.

This young man now sits at Napa State Hospital accused of a terrible crime he never could have committed in his right mind two years ago this month.

His life will never be the same. This other family's life has forever changed and they have lost a father, grandfather and husband.

The many personal losses that continue daily are staggering and terribly heartbreaking, and there is great financial cost to our system.

The voluntary programs our system offers are simply not enough. Families and others in our community are pleading for our county to adopt Laura's Law.

We all need our county supervisors' leadership now. We must not wait any longer.

Please contact your Alameda County supervisor and urge him or her to vote for Laura's Law on Tuesday.

And, if possible, please attend the meeting and speak.

This opportunity for change will make a difference, and it will not come along again anytime soon.

We have been cruelly turning our backs on these individuals by not providing appropriate care and services.

We are our brothers' keepers.

Nick Cabral is a resident of Alameda He wrote this article for this newspaper.