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California’s Auditor Says Counties Aren’t Doing Enough For People Released From Psychiatric Holds

A homeless man sleeps on a bus bench on a hot day in downtown Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)
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A report out today from California’s auditor says L.A. County needs to do more to make sure people with serious mental illness get ongoing care.

The audit took a look at the implementation of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, a law that’s meant to prevent people with serious mental illnesses from being committed to psychiatric facilities indefinitely.

For years, advocates have said the act needs an update, though, because it makes it too difficult to force treatment for people who otherwise end up cycling through incarceration and homelessness.

Barbara Wilson agrees. She founded a non-profit that helps families navigate the mental health system. Wlison said:

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“It’s incredibly painful to watch somebody go downhill, and what we know is that if we can treat somebody on their way to going down, then the outcomes are much better."

The audit found that the act already allows for sufficient involuntary treatment. At the same time, auditors found that L.A. County needs to do more to link people with community-based treatment once the involuntary hold is over.

In its response to the audit, L.A. County said it has “worked tirelessly to transform the way in which mental health services are delivered within the county for those requiring involuntary treatment and/or conservatorship.”

The audit also recommends that the state release information to counties so they can better keep track of who’s received involuntary treatment.

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