Following LA County vote, legislation filed to amend state law to help ‘gravely disabled’ homeless

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

By Susan Abram - Los Angeles Daily News

Two Los Angeles-area assemblymembers introduced legislation Wednesday to amend a state code to give providers more support if they determine a homeless individual who has a mental illness needs medical care.

The introduction of AB 1971 comes a day after LA County leaders voted 4 to 1 to sponsor legislation that would allow social workers and members of law enforcement to determine if a homeless person is “gravely disabled” enough to be detained and taken into medical care.

Currently, the state code on “gravely disabled” reads: “A condition in which a person, as a result of a mental disorder (rather than a chosen lifestyle or lack of funds) is unable to provide for his or her basic needs for food, clothing or shelter.”

AB 1971 would amend that to include “or medical treatment where the lack or failure of such treatment may result in substantial physical harm or death.”

There are more than three dozen other states that have language similar to what the county is proposing, said supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-authored the motion that passed on Tuesday.

Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, introduced AB 1971 and agreed with the supervisors, noting a recent report that found that along with the increasing number of homeless people living on Los Angeles County’s streets, the number who died doubled in the last five years, rising to 831 deaths in 2017, according to a recent report.