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Letter to the Editor: Treating the Mentally Ill Among Us

Letter to the Editor: Treating the Mentally Ill Among Us

Dear Editor,

Over the past few years, as our country has been plagued with violent crimes, school shootings, and other atrocities, a new light has been shed on mental illness. Occasionally, some of these most brutal crimes will be committed by individuals with mental illness. Tragically, a hardworking member of our community was recently stabbed, while working at his job. The victim’s attacker, who had just been released from Atascadero State Hospital, had a criminal history dating back to the mid-1990s. The Atascadero facility houses violent, mentally ill offenders, and parolees. 

According to court records, the attacker’s criminal history included felony assault, drug and traffic offenses, and misdemeanor assault and battery. And currently, he has two strikes based on California’s Three Strikes law. 

Laura’s Law was implemented in 2014 and is a statewide ordinance that allows authorities to order psychiatric treatment for people with mental illness. The law was passed to provide an avenue to treatment for individuals most at risk for violence, incarceration, and homelessness because they struggle to accept or stay in treatment. The law is named after Laura Wilcox, who was shot to death at age 19 along with two other people by a mentally unstable man in 2001 who had refused psychiatric treatment. 

Laura’s Law has already been implemented in several counties, including San Luis Obispo, Kern County, Los Angeles County, Nevada County, Orange County, Placer County, San Diego County, San Mateo County Yolo County, Contra Costa County, the City and County of San Francisco, Ventura County, San Luis Obispo County, Alameda County and Mendocino County 

Laura’s Law isn’t mandated statewide and is only in counties where the county board of supervisors has approved it. Laura’s Law has never been implemented, nor considered here in Tulare County. As Tulare County District Attorney, I intend to examine Laura’s Law to determine if it’s a suitable avenue for our community to curb the behavior of violent, mentally ill individuals before they hurt themselves or others. If instituted in Tulare County, the seriously mentally ill could potentially be provided assistance, before they have an opportunity to harm, thereby preventing crime. It may not be the complete solution to all mental health issues, but in some instances it could prevent a tragedy from occurring.

Matt Darby
Deputy District Attorney, Kings County
Candidate for Tulare County District Attorney

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