No fellow human being unable to make medical decisions for his or herself should die on our streets. Sadly, some people are so mentally ill that they do not know they’re sick.
We need to change the definition of “gravely disabled” to include those who cannot care for themselves medically to ensure first responders and medical professionals have the authority to direct these people to treatment.
Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I am calling to urge the Senator [___] to support AB 1971 in the form unanimously voted for in the Assembly, NOT as amended by the Senate Judiciary committee.
State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson: (SD-19): SAC (916) 651-4019, SB (805) 965-0862, OX (805)988-1940
Not your state senator?:findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.
Why this is so important:
Much of this text is from an exceptional op-ed in the Ventura County Star by Mary Haffner, an attorney and member of the Ventura Unified School District and Ventura County Behavioral Health Advisory boards. Read the full text here
On June 26, the California Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony regarding Assembly Bill 1971, which would expand the definition of “gravely disabled” to include medical necessity. Existing law does not recognize a person’s inability to provide for his or her basic personal needs for health as an element of grave disability. AB 1971 can change this.
Homelessness and homeless encampments have become a part of the permanent landscape of California, and approximately 33 percent of these people suffer from serious mental illness. A subset of the mentally ill lack the capacity to understand that without medical intervention, they will die.
We need the tools to intervene. AB 1971 addresses this public health crisis and would give first responders and medical professionals the authority to direct these people to treatment.
AB 1971 passed with overwhelming support through two Assembly committees and the Senate Health Committee. On June 26, however, the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed two amendments that would severely restrict its purview. With these amendments, the bill would apply only to Los Angeles County as a five-year pilot program and only to those people deemed to have no more than six months to live.
Dr. Jonathan Sherin, Los Angeles County’s mental health director, said the committee’s amendments reflect a lack of understanding of the problem. Some people are so mentally ill that they do not know they’re sick. “We can’t have people who are unable to make decisions dying in the streets,” he said.
One need look no further than our jails and prisons to see our failure to treat the seriously mentally ill robs them of their civil liberties and freedom. Our prisons and jails are filled with people suffering from untreated serious mental illness.
We are locking them up, sometimes in solitary confinement, because their illness has so ravaged their brains that they lack the capacity to understand right from wrong. They suffer from delusions and lack the cognition to make true choices. Their illness has imprisoned them mentally, and we lock them up physically and deny them any possible hope of recovery.
Expanding the definition of “grave disability” pursuant to AB 1971 to include serious medical health conditions will allow us to identify and help more people who suffer from this debilitating disease. Read the full text of the op-ed here
This video, honestly, floored us. In her own words, this brave woman gives a first-hand account of what life is like living on the streets of Ventura. A former school teacher and homeowner who, through a series of sad events, found herself homeless and recounts her struggle to find a home and the obstacles in her way her journey (“As a homeless person, just your existence is illegal in the city of Ventura”) :
Here’s a recent article that should be read, as well: LIFE CUT SHORT: Local homeless services still lacking in helping those in need.