Kevin Valine

Modesto meeting focuses on treatment for mentally ill homeless

When I have free time, I sometimes go to Modesto parks and talk with the homeless. They tell me their stories of how they ended up on the streets. Too often these stories involve mental illness.

Some of the homeless have told me about how people have implanted tracking devices in them. One man said he talks with the president on a regular basis and that there are 1,000 FBI agents working undercover as homeless people in Modesto.

But there is an effort underway to get help for some of these mentally ill homeless people who refuse treatment through what is called Laura’s Law. It would let local judges, at the request of an adult family member, law enforcement, mental health care providers and certain others, to order severely mentally ill people who meet certain criteria to receive outpatient treatment.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Stanislaus affiliate has been working on getting Stanislaus County to implement Laura’s Law, which is named after Laura Wilcox, who was killed in 2001 in Grass Valley by a man with untreated schizophrenia.

NAMI Stanislaus will hold a meeting on Laura’s Law on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at its Modesto office, 500 N. Ninth St. The meeting is open to the public. NAMI Stanislaus advocate Rhonda Allen said NAMI Contra Costa County official Douglas Dunn and Randall Hagar, the government affairs director for the California Psychiatric Association, will speak. The two are experts on the law.

Allen said representatives from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Modesto Police Department, county CEO’s office and Behavioral Health and Recovery Services are expected to attend, as well as Modesto Councilwomen Jenny Kenoyer and Kristi Ah You.

“We really see it as an educational meeting,” Allen said. “We want people to see what the law is about, and we think there is a need for it.”

Allen said some families turn to NAMI Stanislaus because of their heartbreak of not being able to get help for loved ones who are mentally ill and homeless. She said there also is a practical benefit to Laura’s Law. She said it is cheaper to treat the mentally ill than have the police deal with them and have them be in and out of jail and hospitals.

Eleven California counties have adopted Laura’s Law since the Legislature passed it in 2002, according to NAMI Stanislaus.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316