KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

California Shootings Revive Debate Over Involuntary Commitment

A bill in the House, which would make it easier for family members and authorities to force people to be treated, is giving some lawmakers pause, while NPR reports how counties in California have been slow to adopt a 2002 state law that gives authorities the ability to mandate outpatient mental health care for people who have been refusing it.

The Wall Street Journal: Isla Vista Rampage Reanimates Debate Over Mental-Health Bill
The bill from Rep. Tim Murphy (R., Pa.) is drawing attention in light of Friday's rampage near Santa Barbara, Calif., as the failure of gun-control proposals has left mental-health legislation as the most likely response from lawmakers to a string of mass shootings in recent years. Mr. Murphy, a psychologist by training, is working with the encouragement of the House Republican leadership, who have yet to schedule it for a floor vote. But his bill is giving some lawmakers pause because it revives a long-standing question about the rights of the mentally ill to determine their own treatment. Mr. Murphy would make it easier for family members or authorities to force people to be treated even if they haven't shown themselves to be a danger to themselves or others (Hughes, 5/28).

NPR: The Divide Over Involuntary Mental Health Treatment
The attack near the University of California, Santa Barbara, is renewing focus on mental health and intervention programs in general — and raising questions about whether enough is being done to prevent mass shootings and other violence. In California, a 2002 law allows authorities to mandate outpatient mental health care for people who have been refusing it. Proponents argue this kind of intervention could prevent violent acts. But counties within the state have been slow to adopt the legislation, and mental health professionals are divided over its effects (Siegler, 5/29).

The Associated Press: California Rampage Shows Gaps In Mental Health Law
Elliot Rodger's murderous rampage near Santa Barbara has tragically exposed the limitations of involuntary-commitment laws that allow authorities to temporarily confine people who are deemed a danger to themselves or others. ... Like many other states, California has a law intended to identify and confine dangerously unstable people before they can do harm. It allows authorities to hold people in a mental hospital for up to 72 hours for observation. To trigger it, there must be evidence a person is suicidal, intent on hurting others or so "gravely disabled" as to be unable to care for himself (Blood and Abdollah, 5/28).

Los Angeles Times: Senate Democrats Propose More Spending On Mentally Ill Criminals
State Senate Democrats on Wednesday offered a $165-million package of proposals aimed at reducing the number of mentally ill people locked up in prisons and jails in California. The proposals, offered just days after a disturbed student killed six people in Isla Vista, Calif., also would provide $12 million in additional funds to train law enforcement officers to recognize and handle people who may be a threat to themselves and others (McGreevy, 5/28).

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