Like many counties, Tehama County mental health officials chose to ignore Kevin Jason Neal, inevitably pushing him into increasingly violent crimes as he refused treatment. To avoid a Tehama-like bloodbath, Sacramento County should prioritize the dangerous mentally ill for the $44 million in unused Mental Health Services Act funds now devoted to homelessness. It’s easy: first, the county should adopt Laura’s Law, which provides early intervention for severely mentally ill treatment-refusers who have a recent history of dangerousness. Laura’s Law has cut homelessness by up to 62 percent in the 19 counties that use it, with similar reductions in arrests, hospitalizations and violence. Sacramento County should also stop ignoring Section 7(f) of the Mental Health Services Act, which mandates Laura’s Law-like programs for the severely mentally ill just released from local jails. Nationwide statistics show that such assisted outpatient treatment keeps people housed and well, while saving lives and public money.
Mary Ann Bernard, Sacramento