Laura's Law's reactionary backers demonize progressives

Laura's Law was named after 19-yera-old Laura Wilcox, who was murdered by a mentally ill man.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius often gets things wrong in his columns, sometimes painfully so. Nobody's perfect and we all make mistakes. But what's less excusable is the fact that Chuck's erroneous reporting, prominently presented by his newspaper, almost always serves a conservative political agenda. Even worse is that he won't admit when he gets something wrong, even when directly confronted with accurate information – a cardinal sin for anyone who considers himself a journalist.

I experienced Chuck's incurious intransigence at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, the same day his column on Laura's Law – which Sup. Michela Alioto-Pier is proposing to implement in San Francisco -- appeared in the paper. Laura's Law is a controversial measure that would allow counties to force medication and other psychiatric treatments on individuals who show signs of schizophrenia and other serious mental health issues, but who haven't committed any crimes.

As with a Chronicle editorial the day before, Nevius took an overheated whack at progressives for not wholeheartedly supporting the measure: “Laura's Law, which provides court-ordered mental health treatment for those individuals, is the kind of bold, breakthrough idea the city was once known to promote. But today, when it is considered by the Board of Supervisors, it will face an uphill battle. This is San Francisco at its worst, protecting small constituencies, worrying about legal consequences and letting lobbyists carry the agenda. It is an embarrassment for the city that used to know how to take a courageous stand.”

But none of that was true. The reality is that forcing treatment on mental health patients is an issue that divides that community and raises civil liberties concerns. This is an issue on which reasonable people can disagree, but Nevius's column never aired that perspective, and it didn't even mention that forced medication was an aspect of this law, so I asked him why and whether he understood that.

Nevius vehemently denied that forced medication was part of Laura's Law, even though Dr. James Dillard from SF General Hospital had just testified that “medication is the single most important aspect of this care,” given that the patients involved are often exhibiting psychotic behavior, testimony on which Nevius took no notes and seemed to be playing with his phone during.

So I pulled out my own Iphone and quickly pulled up this recent article by the Chronicle's Kevin Fagan, where the opening sentence defines the purpose of the law as “to compel the mentally ill to take medications.” Still, Nevius didn't believe it, illogicaly quibbling over the definition of "compel," and we stepped out into the hall to argue for a moment. There, representatives for the California Network of Mental Health Clients were gathered to oppose implementation of the law, distributing literature calling it, “an outdated, coercive, unproven, and divisive law that codifies involuntary outpatient commitment.” I left them to educate Nevius and went back inside, but after a few minutes he pulled me out to listen to one guy say that the law didn't have strong enough teeth, thinking this supported his point. But when I asked point blank whether the law was about involuntary treatment, he agreed it was – and still Nevius wouldn't relent.

Now, this is a complex issue, and Laura's Law may actually be a good idea on balance. But rather than relying solely on horrific anecdotes of mentally ill people who commit crimes, as both Nevius and Alioto-Pier are doing, a smart and thorough legislative process will take into account a broad array of issues, including civil liberties concerns.

That's what the progressive supervisors who Nevius tried to demonize did during the hearing, asking many questions for which Alioto-Pier didn't have good answers. Dr. Mitch Katz, who runs the city's Department of Public Health, the agency that would implement the law, opposes Laura's Law but neither Alioto-Pier or Nevius could explain why in a way that made sense, and Katz was out of town during the hearing.

So rather than be pressured by these hyperventilating reactionaries, the board did the right thing and – over Alioto-Pier's objections -- delayed consideration of the item by two weeks, expressing support for the notion of improved pubic safety and mental health treatment, noting that the budget proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom would have slashed mental health treatment services in the city, and asking for more information to reach a well-considered decision.

Nevius loves to paint progressives as wild-eyed ideologues who won't listen to reason, but once again, this episode seems to show that it is this city's so-called “moderates” that are most prone to going off on half-cocked ideological crusades using the most reactionary arguments.


San Francisco never met an item that it didnt love to table.
Tabling a proposal is the BOS way of never having to make a difficult decision - anyone who says otherwise is being disingenuous.

Posted by bob on Jul. 22, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

The measure wasn't tabled, it was continued to a date certain in two weeks. That's very different.

Posted by steven on Jul. 22, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

It is crucial to understand that NAMI, the main organization pushing both Laura's Law, and Alioto-Pier's local resolution, gets a vast majority of its funding from the pharmaceutical industry. To see details on this connection with the drug industry go to and

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (locally SF NAMI), has spent decades pushing aggressive and epidemic over-diagnosis of mental illness, in order to trick, and even force, millions of innocent healthy people (a vast number of them children) onto extremely dangerous psychoactive drugs, most with heavy side effects that neuter the lives of the people who are naively taking them; and often lead to profound mental illness that never would have occurred, suicide, aggressive behavior, and even deadly violence.

NAMI accomplishes this by convincing the public, patients, well meaning advocates, and mental health professionals, that normal human behaviors, such as shyness or lack of attention in school, are illnesses caused by 'chemical imbalances' in the brain, which need to be treated with medication. This 'chemical imbalance' theory though it has been widely accepted as fact because of huge PR campaigns from groups like NAMI, has absolutely no basis in proven science whatsoever.

One of the most egregious accomplishments of NAMI is the pushing of false pseudo-diagnoses of 'ADD' and 'ADHD' so effectively that it has succeeded in forcing millions of innocent healthy school children onto the drug Ritalin, ruining their childhoods and devastating their adult lives.

It is easy to be swayed by local NAMI organizers, because they are often very well meaning volunteers, who really care about legitimate mental illness, and who often work on expanding non-drug treatments; but they have also been deeply manipulated and duped by NAMI PR and literature into pushing hard for massive over-prescription of psychoactive drugs.

As the primary supporter of legislation like "Laura's Law" NAMI has one agenda, and that is to force millions -more- people nationwide, onto profitable, but unnecessary, and life threatening drugs.

And it is particularly disturbing that representatives of NAMI have gained seats and heavy influence on our own local Mental Health Board. This connection with NAMI on our local board should be investigated immediately, and in light of the pharmaceutical industry manipulation of NAMI, all Mental Health Board members who are paid by NAMI, or receive funding/support from NAMI for their local work or nonprofits, should be removed due to clear conflict of interest.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jul. 22, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

Next one should be

"Stupid conservatives call progressives names"

Eric makes a good point though, the pharmacy companies are making piles of cash selling crap to people who suffer life's little ordeals. The head doctors having never been of much help to many of their clients can now just give clients a pill and it looks like they have done something, and they can feel better about themselves too.

Sitting around being miserable and bitter in the house playing video games or whatever isn't what humans were designed to do through millions of years of evolution. Evolution designed humans to burn vast quantities of energy surviving, taking some pills isn't going to replace that.

Posted by Laura's Law's reactionary backers demonize progressives on Jul. 22, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

they commit their insane crimes. Studies that prove a statistical relationship between suicide and murder and these medications are suppressed. No one knows how these medications really work.

"Columbine shooter was prescribed anti-depressant

April 29, 1999
Web posted at: 4:22 p.m. EDT (2022 GMT)

(CNN) -- Reports surfaced Wednesday that one of the gunmen in the Littleton, Colorado, school shooting, Eric Harris, was rejected by Marine Corps recruiters days before the Columbine High School massacre because he was under a doctor's care and had been prescribed an anti-depressant medication. "

Posted by Guest on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 6:30 am

people on medication for being crazy still do crazy things? Thats a strange causality.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 10:44 am

didn't exist before these children became medicated.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 7:11 am

I agree that all this medicating people of all ages is ridiculous, it seems the pharmacy industry has many people convinced that they should never suffer any unhappiness ever, and that kids shouldn't be taking all this ridiculous shit.

I do not know if the medication is to blame, there are other inputs at play and there were shootings before.

Posted by Laura's Law's reactionary backers demonize progressives on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 11:16 am

The recent phenomenon of high school mass murders began after children started getting medicated and the overwhelming of mass murders were committed by children who WERE medicated.

"Look carefully at the reports of many of the big US shootings – for example Eric Harris at Columbine in 1999 – and you will find that the shooter is described as having been ‘depressed’ and ‘on medication’.

Here is a partial list of other incidents (there are several more, including some where it is likely, but not proven, anti-depressants were involved) which must surely suggest that this possible link badly needs investigating.

Patrick Purdy, culprit of the 1989 Cleveland School massacre in Stockton, California, had been on anti-depressants. Jeff Weise, perpetrator of the March 2005 Red Lake High School massacre, was on anti-depressants.

Anti-depressants were found in the cabin of the ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski. Michael McDermott, culprit of the 2000 ‘Wakefield massacre’ in Massachusetts, was on anti-depressants.

Kip Kinkel, culprit of a 1998 murder spree in Oregon, was on anti-depressants.
John Hinckley, who tried to kill Ronald Reagan in 1981, was on anti-depressants.

It is both interesting and worry­ing that, with so many such unhinged and otherwise inexplicable killings perpetrated by people taking legal medication, the official world has been so slow to look into the matter...."

Read more:

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 12:05 pm
Posted by Laura's Law's reactionary backers demonize progressives on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

Actually, according to CounterPunch, Kaczynski was a subject of full blown OSS mind control trials in the 50's and 60's. See

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

I don't think the Uni Bomber started bombing because of paxil, zoloft, lithium or whatever. It may have had something to to with LSD though.

I got a chuckle out of the part about leary's fried brains right before the uni-bomber part. I loved the Pop o Pies song about him.

The uni-bomber had a kooky view of the world, he wasn't an angry teen over prescribed by some hack head doctor. He was more of a hippie who took to many drugs and thought his bong revelations while high were deep. Most people sober up and move on, he didn't.

I'm not saying that the medical quacks are right prescribing all those pills to teens. It's like the Cato institute studies saying that rent control drives up rents, in cities with high rents that implemented rent control.

Posted by Laura's Law's reactionary backers demonize progressives on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

Further, new studies suggest that anti depressants, the biggest selling drugs for multinational pharmaceutical companies, work no better than placebos.

The Depressing News About Antidepressants
Studies suggest that the popular drugs are no more effective than a placebo. In fact, they may be worse.

Although the year is young, it has already brought my first moral dilemma. In early January a friend mentioned that his New Year's resolution was to beat his chronic depression once and for all. Over the years he had tried a medicine chest's worth of antidepressants, but none had really helped in any enduring way, and when the side effects became so unpleasant that he stopped taking them, the withdrawal symptoms (cramps, dizziness, headaches) were torture. Did I know of any research that might help him decide whether a new antidepressant his doctor recommended might finally lift his chronic darkness at noon?"

Posted by Guest on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 6:34 am

Compelling "the" mentally ill to take their medications ought raise more than a few eyebrows. Why does it not?

Compelling "the" Blacks to ride in the back of the bus did not, for far too long. Perhaps we just do not want to see this "the," as we did not want to see previous usages.

Laura's Law is far more specific than "the" mentally ill. Its danger arises in who decides who shall be forced.

Harold A. Maio, retired Mental Health Editor

Posted by Harold A Maio on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 7:18 am

My name is James Keys and I am the chair of the San Francisco Mental Health Board (MHB) and I am writing about AB 1421 or “Laura’s Law.” The MHB believes that our community has a moral and ethical duty to care for those people who are ill, suffering, in trouble, and in need. The MHB of San Francisco represents and ensures the inclusion of the diverse voices of consumers, citizens, and stakeholders in advising how mental health services are administered and provided.

Through its state and city mandates, the MHB advises, reviews, advocates, and educates; with the aim of having that advice integrated, incorporated, and reflected in implementation of mental health policy; with the ultimate goal of ensuring quality mental health services.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier has introduced a hearing to review the assisted outpatient treatment for persons with severe mental illness and "Laura's Law" (AB 1421) implementation to the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee. After it was signed into law, AB 1421 can only be enforced in counties that choose to enact outpatient commitment programs based on the measure. The Outpatient commitment eligibility criteria are as follows:

A person may be placed in an assisted outpatient treatment if, after a hearing, a court finds that the following criteria have been met. The patient must:

• Be eighteen years of age or older
• Be suffering from a mental illness
• Be unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, based on a clinical determination
• Have a history of non-compliance with treatment that has either:
• Been a significant factor in his or her being in a hospital, prison or jail at least twice within the last thirty-six months; or
• Resulted in one or more acts, attempts or threats of serious violent behavior toward self or others within the last forty-eight months
• Have been offered an opportunity to voluntarily participate in a treatment plan by the local mental health department but continue to fail to engage in treatment
• Be substantially deteriorating
• Be, in view of his or her treatment history and current behavior, in need of assisted outpatient treatment in order to prevent a relapse or deterioration that would likely result in the person meeting California's inpatient commitment standard, which is being:
• A serious risk of harm to himself or herself or others; or
• Gravely disabled (in immediate physical danger due to being unable to meet basic needs for food, clothing, or shelter);
• Be likely to benefit from assisted outpatient treatment; and
• Participation in the assisted outpatient program is the least restrictive placement necessary to ensure the person's recovery and stability.

Earlier Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, Director of Health for the City and County of San Francisco wrote that the estimated cost to the Department of Public Health to implement Assembly Bill 1421 would be:

Type of Service Cost Per client for 180 Days
Administration $436
Direct Services $4,689
Housing $7,200
Total $12,329

Yet there is no additional or increased State funding associated with this legislation AB 1421.
If the individual in question meets the criteria and it is likely that the petition (which in San Francisco must come from the person who is the subject of the petition, a parent, spouse or sibling, the director of a treatment center, the director of a hospital, a licensed mental health treatment provider, or a peace officer, parole officer or probation officer of the subject of the petition) would be supported in court, the mental health director or designee investigates and files a petition on Superior Court.

Because the process is petition driven, it is impossible to anticipate the number that might be received in San Francisco. If the court finds the petition does meet the criteria for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) and that there is no appropriate and feasible less restrictive alternative, the court may order up to six months of AOT as an initial treatment. If the Director of the AOT program determines that the patient requires further AOT services and applies to the court for an extension, the Court may mandate additional services not to exceed six months.

Counties must provide services in a program with highly trained, multi-disciplinary staff, with a staff-to-client ratio of no more than 1 to 10. Each client must be assigned a Personal Service Coordinator. AB 1421 specifies that counties must demonstrate that it has adequate resources for housing that is “immediate, transitional, permanent, or all of these.” Also direct services must be provided by the County which include; outreach, coordinated mental health and substance abuse services, medication access and coordinated, and vocational rehabilitation. Also there are administrative procedures that include assessing individuals, preparing petitions for court, participating in hearings, and report data to the State. This is according to Dr. Katz.

San Francisco is now facing a $483 million budget deficit next year. Funding has been cut for mental health services, drug and alcohol services through out the city. For example the Southeast Mission Geriatric Services Center, located at 3905 Mission Street has one doctor with 70 patients. A clear strategy and principles are essential to address our short-term crisis and a comprehensive and inclusive planning process is essential to ensure the long-term capacity, sustainability and effectiveness of safety-net services to care for vulnerable San Franciscans is maintained. It is recommended nationally that 50 acute beds per hundred thousand persons is the recommended balance and San Francisco currently has 15 beds per hundred thousand people. This shortage of acute beds creates a bottleneck effect and to relieve the pressure, people are admitted to the hospital and stabilized then people are discharged prematurely before they have realized the full benefits of their medication.

People who are not stabilize return to the hospital in a revolving door pattern of acute service utilization and those people have stayed in the revolving door cycle and costing the City $250,000 or more.
The Behavioral Health Court has resulted in significantly decreasing the recidivism rate, many people stay in jail for months waiting for an open slot. The Behavioral Health Court have shown that with adequate and proper treatment, people can recover, and break the cycle they have been in showing that treatment is more efficient and cheaper than incarceration.

Community Behavioral Health Services (CBHS) has spent years creating a strategic, cost-effective system of care with a focus on community-based treatment. Before beginning an expensive and untested outpatient treatment here in San Francisco, let us continue to fund services that are currently working and San Francisco should also look at a “how to test the implementation of AB 1421” with “comprehensive implementation, infrastructure and oversight.”

Thank you,

James Keys
San Francisco Mental Health Board

Posted by Guest on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 8:31 am

James, your detailed overview of "Laura's Law" shows clearly how incredibly dangerous it is. It leaves the door wide open for mental health professionals and judges to arbitrarily force people to take medication based on absurdly weak and subjective criteria such as being 'unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, based on a clinical determination' or having 'a history of non-compliance with treatment' such as having 'been offered an opportunity to voluntarily participate in a treatment plan by the local mental health department but continue to fail to engage in treatment'.

So Laura's law allows a person to be forced onto medication for refusing in the past to be put on medication!

This stuff is straight out of Orwell and dystopian science fiction novels, and is an outrageously dangerous precedent to set. San Francisco must refuse to have anything to do with this insanity.

And James the fact that you are recommending that, quote: San Francisco should also look at a “how to test the implementation of AB 1421” with “comprehensive implementation, infrastructure and oversight.”

Means that you have just publicly lost my support until you reverse your position and flatly oppose "Laura's Law".

Finally, James, please answer the following question:

What is your current relationship with NAMI and SF NAMI?

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 9:53 am

for every other crack pot liberal scheme to modify behavior in this city?

Posted by matlock on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 12:41 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 7:31 am

Without my medication, there is no telling what I would do. I do not want to go there, that would be going backward, I do not know what I would be capable of!

I tried to commit suicide, now I do not want to hurt myself or any one else.

But I do feel if we can save the life of a person who will cause harm to themselves or others should not be free to do so. We should not wait till the law is broken.

There needs to be some common since, mental ill persons do not know that they need help, let alone will not ask for help.

I was lucky, I got help and take medication so I can live better every day. Of course it is not a perfect quick fix and do struggle some days. But I have more better days and want to keep it up.

There is hope, we all need to expose that to everyone for a better life for everyone!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 24, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

Yes guest, but sweeping policy which has the potential to powerfully undermine democratic freedoms, should not be adopted based on truly severe and real health conditions like your own.

The law already allows that a person who has clearly proven themselves to be dangerous to other people can be detained and even treated against their will.

Leaving this as the status quo indeed means that all of us must take some risk of being harmed by someone who commits a first violent 'crime' arising from mental illness.

But such risk is the price for true democratic and personal freedom in a free society.

Otherwise we wind up with a governing system like the Soviet Union or the early United States in which individuals were all too easily sent down the memory hole for the rest of their lives via false diagnoses of mental illness.

It was once considered that women could get mental illness from -thinking- too much.

Mental illness diagnoses are still far higher in people of color and have been used to oppress by race.

Being gay until very recently was -classified- as a mental illness.

This stuff is nothing to fooled with or enabled.

Freedom with risk, is far better than security in a cage of oppressive laws and substances...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jul. 24, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

"The Limits of Antidepressants: Exploring the Alternatives

In 2008, we learned that the benefits of antidepressants had been greatly overstated. [1] Former FDA psychiatrist Erick H. Turner, M.D. uncovered some "startling information about Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. In reviewing all the medical literature, he learned that 94 percent of the reports showing the therapeutic benefits of SSRIs were published compared to only 14 percent of the reports showing either no benefits or inconclusive results (of taking SSRIs were published). When he weighed all the literature, Dr. Turner determined that SSRIs were no more effective than a placebo for treating most depressive patients. Those with severe depression were helped, sometimes greatly, but those with mild to moderate depression, the majority of cases, received little relief. British researchers using the Freedom of Information Act uncovered identical findings. [2]

In January 2010, another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirms these findings. The newest study also evaluated another class of antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants. Again, researchers determined that the typical patient, one with mild to moderate depression, gets the same amount of relief from a placebo ..."

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 7:29 am

Everyone should admit this proposal does not have care for sick people at its heart. It is intended to let the police threaten poor people with forced psychoactive drugging if they make nuisances of themselves in tourist districts -- and to allow the police, assisted by social workers and courts, to carry out this threat against disruptive poor people who do not get out of sight when ordered to do so. The purpose of the drugging would be to keep people quiet, not to help them recover from illness.

Some reasonable people do take the position that forced medication can be necessary, in narrowly defined cases, for the good of a patient who is especially far from reality. However, this law is not intended to serve or heal particular patients. It is designed for one-size-fits-all tranquilizing -- a return by chemical means to the old practice of locking inconvenient people in madhouses instead of listening to them.

If this "Laura's Law" proposal is intended to heal, why is it supported by the political and media figures who otherwise express the loudest hatred of homeless people?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 28, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

"...a return by chemical means to the old practice of locking inconvenient people in madhouses instead of listening to them."

What is gained by listening to crazy people ramble?

SF is a city where the progressives feel entitled to some part of every dime that changes hands in the city, the tourism industry hands over a lot of cash to these drunk sailors massive sense of being owed. Why shouldn't the tourism expect something in return for all that cash they fork over? Go "heal" down by the needle exchange.

Posted by you can't be serious? on Jul. 28, 2010 @ 5:40 pm