City leaders working to introduce new law, addressing mental illness

In an effort to fight local homelessness, some city leaders are working to introduce a state law to our area.

Posted: Nov 15, 2019 12:23 PM

CHICO, Calif. - In an effort to fight local homelessness, some city leaders are working to introduce a state law to our area.

It’s called Laura’s law and it would give the court system the power to make those with severe mental illness get treatment.

Statistics according to city leaders: 

Homeless estimate in Chico: 1,100

Homeless total in Butte County: 1,700

A familiar location for those who walk around downtown Chico, a number of homeless people in the city plaza.

They have become the latest focus of city leaders working to get the homeless off the streets and into treatment programs.

City leaders said that roughly 40% to 60% of homeless people in Butte County suffer from mental illness. Which is why there is renewed talk to introduce Laura’s law to our area.

It would allow a relative, mental health provider, even a police officer to ask a judge to compel the outpatient treatment of a person with mental illness.

Action News Now asked people in Chico how they felt about the law.

“Giving them an opportunity that they might not have sought out on their own might be a good opportunity.” Chico resident, Nikki Vargas said.

“There’s a large homeless population in Chico, and I think it could be a good idea. It's better than having them on the streets.” Chico resident, Maggie Pope-Pangelina said.

“Enacting this law would allow us to intervene on behalf of those people to get them the help they need. They don't necessarily have the wherewithal to get themselves help.” City Councilman Scott Huber said.

Huber added one of the strongest ways, in his opinion, to combat local homelessness is to build affordable housing. Introducing Laura’s Law would be a good step forward, Huber said.

County representatives said Laura's Law was brought before the board of supervisors in 2016. However, it was not implemented at that time.

The county said there was little data to support the effectiveness of that law. So instead introduced more resources, including two mobile crisis teams to address the issue of mental illness and homelessness. 

Laura's Law targets mentally ill people who have been jailed or hospitalized twice in the last five years because of their mental health issues or have had a violent outburst in the last four years.

This law is still very much up for discussion, Action News Now will be watching the developments closely.

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