Can’t house the poor and homeless? Then, let’s drug them

By David Busch

This summer, a sick, psychotic hallucination called “Laura’s Law” is seizing Sacramento, and it promises to devastate the poor, the mentally ill, and, especially, to victimize the homeless.

Now in the California legislature, this proposed law is the result of a media frenzy to get the giant pharmaceutical industry’s “forced government drugging” laws into this State; laws affecting every Californian, and, especially us in Venice. It targets any adult who is claimed to have any "mental disorder." Its backers want this law brought against literally anyone who no more than just appears to be simply as vague as a “danger,” or simply “deteriorating,” to no one more than just a cop on the beat.

Just how overbroad is this law? Well, according to the American Psychological Association, 48% of everybody in America suffers from “a mental disorder.” Further, court orders for drugging could be brought against anybody by a spouse, a probation officer - even a roommate.

“Laura’s forced government drugging” law, Assembly Bill 1421, is simply an unprecedented legislative attack against all of us. It will allow the courts to order six month outpatient drugging sentences for just about anybody in the community. Its proponents (mainly the drug industry) would have the public believe it is aimed at helping the “seriously mentally ill” or “the homeless” - but it’s just not true.

“Laura’s Law” is simply a deliberately deceptive attempt to destroy important civil protections for all of us -as was recently illustrated in an article in the journal of the media watchdog group FAIR, (Extra!, “Mindless and Deadly,” May/June 2001). It reports on the media strategy talks of one of the drug-industry's leading publicists for this sick campaign, D.J. Jaffee:

“People care about public safety...,” states Jaffee. In another place: “Once you understand that, it means that you have to take the debate (on ‘government drugging’) out of the mental health arena and put it in the criminal justice/public safety arena.” The revealing article further cites Jaffee’s strategy for raising the public's fears about the homeless and the mentally ill: “It may be necessary to capitalize on the (public’s) fear of violence.”

And the corporate media (with its massive income from drug industry advertising) has horribly gone along with this. Fear of the homeless and the mentally ill; that, precisely, has been the campaign. Regarding “Laura's Law,” there just has been no rational analysis in the mainstream media of the real cost of this program, or of the effects of forced drugging on communities who are clearly suffering from poverty, racism, or cultural oppression - which effects it’s perpetrators often label as “mental illnesses;” or, how, since Sept. 11, claims of “terrorism” could dangerously expand this law’s scope. Moreover, mental health experts’ studies clearly prove that the excesses of “Laura’s Law” - even for the truly dangerously mentally ill - will not end, or even probably lessen, the shootings, car rampages and horrible family tragedies (lately, very over-hyped in the media) of untreated mental illness.

A 1995 New York study conducted at Bellevue State Hospital followed 142 patients -split into two groups (drugs and drugless). The study concluded that, “There is no indication that, overall, the court order for outpatient commitment (including forced drugging) produces better outcomes for clients or the community than enhanced services alone.” A recent RAND report now before the California Legislature, and covering eight states, also reiterates this.

In 1988, the California “Russell Report,” concluded in their study, that it was shortages of involuntary treatment centers which were distorting the implementation of involuntary commitment laws. The report did not call for tougher commitment laws. Further, today, to suggest that putting more people in this state on psychiatric drugs, and then to predict that this will lead to less numbers of people going off of them in the community and doing crazy, even frightful things, is on the face of it a dangerous illogic. Think about it; more people in the community stabilized by drugs is, plainly, more dangerous.

Even for its supposed beneficiaries, the homeless, AB 1421 will build no new housing, clinics, or even a shelter. Further, among professionals and others, the opposition to “Laura’s Law,” is immense, including: the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies, the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, the California Mental Health Directors Association; California Mental Heath Planning Council; California Network of Mental Health Clients. Almost universally, these groups are calling for what is needed: mental health funding for the already in place in California voluntary clinic program - AB 34. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors recently estimated that the increased cost of forced government drugging, $288 million dollars, will cost 5 times the current cost of AB 34 - money that could give extra support to families taking care of a mentally ill family member at home, - but these facts are just not apparent to the public in the recent screaming, drug - industry planted headlines here in California:

The young woman for who “Laura’s Law” was named, worked at a Nevada City mental facility before being shot in a rampage. The clinic was where another mental health worker, alarmed, had already demanded more intensive oversight for the alleged killer -as was allowed for under the current law. She was declined. The center was overworked. The worker is now suing. The surviving woman's attorney has already stated that the local center “decline[d] to provide care for many people, including some of the most ill people” due to their overwork. Another media story recently hyped a tragic manic-depressive whose husband in the Hollywood music industry had dangerously involved her in a “24 hour” clubbing lifestyle -the article nearly ignoring how that very likely may have played a major part in her breakdown.

This summer, “Laura’s forced government drugging” law, AB 1421, must be stopped and its disgusting media hype repudiated. L.A. area senators where the highest ratio’s of minority, poor, and homeless people reside who will be affected by AB 1421 are: Escutia, Polanco, and Vincent. Readers especially need to call our local senator, Shelia Kuehl, who, shockingly, still supports this outrageous legislation. It’s shocking that anybody would push a bill in Laura’s name that wouldn’t guarantee anybody the treatment and oversight that could have saved even her life - but does guarantee all of us this: forced government drugging.



ab_1421_bill_20020404_amended_sen.html Art. 9, 5346(a)(3)(A)


Kendra_web/KHome.htm Kendra's law required that a person commit “at least 1 act of violence toward self or others, or threats of serious physical harm to self or others.” Laura’s law doesn’t; it only talks about a vague ‘danger.’ 5346(a)(3) and 5346(a)(3)(A)




“Summary...” (Table C.2:) “...sustained outpatient commitment reduced hospitalization only when combined with a higher intensity of patient services (averaging 7 services/month). Analysis of mandatory outpatient treatment on violent behavior yielded similar results.”




ab_14011450/ab_1421_bill_20020404_amended_sen.html Legislative Council's Digest “...Appropration: no”,_june_27,_2001.htm



[8] Los Angeles Times Magazine: "Prelude to a Death," by Paul Teetor, May 5.

Posted: Thu - August 1, 2002 at 05:54 PM