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HELP SAVE AB 1971, A BILL TO FIX THE DEFINITION OF GRAVE DISABILITY

John Hallowitz, Advocacy Comiittee Chair

It is critical that State Senator Anthony Portantino, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, hear from as many of you as possible before August 6th when AB 1971 comes before his committee.  Please, tell him that AB 1971 needs to apply statewide, and to all individuals whose health is in jeopardy, not just those on “deaths door.”

THE PROBLEM

Grave disability is currently defined as an inability because of a mental disorder to provide for one’s food, clothing or shelter. AB 1971 would add that grave disability is an inability to provide for one’s “medical treatment if the failure to receive medical treatment would more likely than not result in serious bodily harm or death.”

On June 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee forced several amendments to AB 1971. The most serious are that:

  1. The new standard applies only to Los Angeles County (not the remaining 57 counties); and
  2. The new standard could only be invoked for individuals who, without medical treatment, would die within 6 months.

Reversing these amendments can be achieved in the Senate Appropriations Committee when it meets on August 6.

WHY THIS IS VITALLY IMPORTANT

Medical treatment is a basic human need like food, clothing and shelter. Because their mental illness has lead them to neglect necessary care or to refuse treatment, mentally ill individuals with treatable medical conditions are dying. Still others are suffering serious and sometimes irreparable harm to their health. In Los Angeles County alone, 800 homeless individuals died in a one-year period, an estimated 1/3 of which had a mental disorder.

Many chronically homeless individuals with mental disorders and serious health problems would benefit from conservatorships – which cannot now be established solely because the individual lacks the capacity to manage their deteriorating health. However, their serious health conditions could be managed earlier and better if they qualified for 5150 or 5250 holds – which they do not now. Such interventions could also prevent health conditions from progressing to serious threats of harm to the individual, and in many instances avoid conservatorships. In either instance, individuals would also receive treatment for their mental condition that leaves them unable to provide for their own health care.

Senator Portantino needs to hear from you that AB 1971 needs to apply statewide, and to all individuals whose health is in jeopardy, not just those on “deaths door.” Your authority based on your own experiences can be very persuasive, but you need to act now to have an impact. Please, write, call, or email Senator Portantino c/o Anthony Molina, Legislative Director, anthony.molina@sen.ca.gov , phone 916-651-4025, fax 916-651-4925.

SAMPLE COMMUNICATION

[DATE]

Re: AB 1971 Mental health services: involuntary detention: gravely disabled

Dear Senator Portantino:

I’m writing to you to respectfully ask for your support. Please support AB 1971 being applied statewide, and not being restricted to only those at death’s door.

I am an advocate/family member with [xxxx] years’ experience advocating for people/my family member with mental disorders. AB 1971 is a critical tool. We can no longer neglect the health of people with severe mental illness who may be too psychotic to know they are sick. AB 1971 provides a small tool that could prevent many avoidable tragedies because of untreated health conditions while also providing critical psychiatric care to those who are not now accessing it, may in fact be rejecting it.

Let me tell you a personal story that illustrates why AB 1971 is needed [provide story here]

For these reasons I respectfully ask for your support for AB 1971, applying it statewide, not restricted it to only those who are so sick they will die within 6 months without medical intervention.

Best regards,

Joe/Joan Advocate

 

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