Griffin: Laura’s Law is sane choice 

Per the request of Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier on Monday, the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee held a hearing on whether San Francisco should adopt a law that would allow courts to order treatment for mentally ill persons before they become dangerous.

Under existing law, if a person is gravely disabled or a threat to oneself or others, they can be forcibly detained under Section 5150 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. Anything less than such a threat, and treatment for mental illness is voluntary. The problem here is obvious: Mentally ill people don’t generally become dangerous or disabled overnight. When the ill person refuses treatment, heartbroken spouses and parents watch helplessly as their loved ones embark on a decline that is usually stopped by death, prison or — at best — a temporary 5150 detention.

In an effort to give counties a way to order the mentally ill into treatment before they harm themselves or others, the California Legislature enacted Laura’s Law in 2002 — named after a behavioral health care clinic worker who was among three shot and killed by a man who was mentally ill. 

According to the legislative analyst’s report, Laura’s Law allows a court to order a person into an assisted outpatient treatment program “if the person has a psychotic disorder or other severe mental illness and has been offered but failed to engage in treatment, is substantially deteriorating, and outpatient treatment would be the least-restrictive placement necessary to ensure the person’s recovery and stability.” The law also has a bunch of requirements that programs and facilities be available.

At the hearing Monday, Public Health Department Director Mitch Katz pointed out that Laura’s Law does not mandate drug treatment — there still has to be a special court order for forcible medication. Still, according to other speakers, just getting the person into the system and having them meet with treatment providers often results in a voluntary agreement to take proper medication.

Of course, Laura’s Law is not a mandate. Counties have to opt in to the program, and so far we have not. That may be about to change. According to statistics presented by Alioto-Pier and others at the hearing, treating mental illness early is cheaper than jail, emergency room visits and homeless shelters. For a City facing dire financial straits, avoiding Laura’s Law is starting to look ... well, crazy.

SF booted off host-city list for World Cup

The list of U.S. cities being promoted to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup tournament is out. And our fair city isn’t on it.

Know who is? Phoenix! That’s right, even Phoenix made the list, though players would be advised to keep their passports in their shoes while they play. Other cities on the list include New York and Los Angeles.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi announced that he’s issuing a “letter of inquiry” to Mistermayor’s office to find out why we aren’t on the list, which includes Tampa, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn. Seriously? Tampa?

I spoke with mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker, who explained that San Francisco was one of many cities asked to submit applications to host the event back in April 2009. Around November, we were whittled right off the list. Other castoffs include Las Vegas and Chicago, so we’re in some decent company in the circular file.

Earthquake bonds worthy of our tax dollars

‘I’m worried about the earthquakes out there,” my dad said to me recently.

“What show was it?” I asked, knowing full well that the only reason this Alabama resident would be thinking about the Big One is because he saw some show on television whose purpose is to scare people and give the folks in the computer-graphics department something to do between James Cameron movies.

“The Big One,” he said, laughing.

I love my dad very much, and I hate it that he worries about me, so I did what any good daughter would do: I lied.

I told him I have an emergency kit (not true unless a substantial stash of Skittles and Red Bull — courtesy of mom — counts as one), that I live in a seismically sound building (aside from the fact that it doesn’t topple over when the wind blows really hard, I have no evidence of that) and that we have the best nerds in the world listening to the Earth like Tonto telling us when danger is approaching (this is kind of true — then again, as a tourist explained to me recently, “Only Jesus knows the plan, and he won’t tell you!”). 

“It’s totally fine, dad! Really,” I said, to end my litany of fibs.

The truth is: I’m as scared as any San Franciscan of an earthquake. And that’s why Proposition B on the June 8 ballot is probably going to pass despite the fact that it needs a two-thirds majority vote. Prop. B is a measure authorizing The City to sell $412 million in general-obligation bonds to fix up fire stations, move the police headquarters to new digs in Mission Bay and repair water systems. Paying back the bonds shouldn’t result in any property tax increase because as old bond debt is satisfied, we’ll just keep paying the same amount and the money will be used to pay back new bonds.

I like Prop. B because it means that I can tell my father the truth about the quake situation here for once: The voters are considering a bond measure that will make sure our fire and police are equipped to save us if the Big One hits.

I have learned the hard way that I can only survive for four days on the contents of my “emergency kit.”

Bored of Supervisors: Quote of the meeting

“Also, when you go to a store and you’re buying like fruit or vegetables or a meal or something, and you know it has like high fat and it’s like a piece of chocolate, you’re not going to go like, ‘Oh my god, it’s 30 percent [fat]! I can’t eat this chocolate! Oh, my god, 30 percent!’ You don’t even know what that means, really.”

— Laura Harvey, during public comment on Mistermayor’s requirement that cell phone retailers label the “specific absorption rate” of cell phone radiation. When I stopped laughing, I realized that she was, perhaps unintentionally, making a darn good point: Even with the labels, will anyone know what the information means, really?

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Melissa Griffin

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