Slipping away

Poorly tracked mental health services funds aren't reaching patients with severe psychological illness

Sixteen percent of US inmates have a severe mental illness, making prisons the largest de facto psychiatric facilities.

By Amy Yannello

Note: This article has been corrected from an earlier version.

As she had done countless times before, Gloria Davidson sat and waited for her son to be brought into the courtroom. His hands and feet were shackled, and his blue uniform branded him as different — someone to be judged apart from the rest of the crowd in this room.

His crime? Aaron Davidson has schizophrenia.

On that day earlier this year, which Gloria recounted and shared with the Guardian in a recent interview, he faced charges for violating one of five restraining orders against him — but he didn't understand what he'd done to deserve them, his mother said.

"The neurons and synapses in his brain fire inappropriately and he sees and hears things that are not really there," Gloria explained. "As a result, his responses to his perceived reality are often unwarranted or make no sense," she continued, "or frighten the people around him." Aaron could neither speak coherently nor acknowledge that his actions had led to restraining orders, she said.

In his case, the judge deemed Aaron "incompetent to stand trial" and sent him to Napa State Hospital for treatment. He remains there, where he'll turn 36 later this month.

Davidson is one of three Bay Area mothers with adult sons at NSH to push for full, statewide implementation of Laura's Law.

Known formally as "assisted outpatient treatment" (AOT), the law is named for Laura Wilcox, a 19-year-old college student who lost her life when Scott Harlan Thorpe, a man with a persistent and severe mental illness who had stopped taking his medication, shot and killed her and a coworker at a Nevada City mental health clinic.

While Thorpe, then 41, was in too deep of a state of psychosis to benefit from AOT at the time of the shootings, his family, psychiatrist, and the Wilcoxes all believed that if the legislation had been in effect even six months earlier, when Thorpe's family first noticed he'd stopped taking medication, the tragedy could have been averted.



Through AOT, an individual's family, doctor, or trusted third party may advocate to a judge that a patient is at risk of decompensation — serious psychological deterioration making it impossible to function independently — if left untreated. In very narrow circumstances, a judge may order a person to receive AOT as a condition of being allowed to continue living independently.

Currently, only Nevada, Los Angeles and Yolo counties have embraced the law, which allows courts in very limited circumstances to compel into treatment those residents who are too ill to know they are ill.

This "lack of insight" — a neurological condition known as "anosognosia" — is said to affect upward of 40 percent of people with serious mental illnesses.

Gloria Davidson and Teresa Pasquini, another mother of a mentally ill NSH patient, are now pushing for Laura's Law implementation in Contra Costa County. They're joined by a third mother, Candy DeWitt, who founded a project called Voices of Mothers Project to bring together parents of people suffering from anosognosia. Alameda County’s Behavioral Health Care Services has issued a report recommending to its Board of Supervisors that it approve a one-year AOT pilot project. The issue is expected to be taken up at the BOS’ Oct. 28 meeting, where it would need a majority vote to be approved, DeWitt said. 


mentally ill and homeless folks, there'd be enough money.

But of course they get sent to SF in the first place precisely because we throw more money at them than other places.

The solution is spending less, not spending more.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 03, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

wrong. the solution is spending wisely. the solution is spending before things escalate. the solution is getting the most positive results for your tax money. make no mistake: you will always spend. there is always a bill. doing nothing does not cancell the bill. doing nothing just insures you get nothing valusble for payment.

Posted by waltinseattle on Sep. 03, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

surrounding cities and states, then we will always have more of these people to support than we can afford.

And given the pot is fixed in size, that means ever worsening services and ever-angrier taxpayers.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 6:42 am

Mentally people are not "life's losers."

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 1:24 pm

Contact Governor Jerry Brown immediately (Sept. 2013) and URGE HIM TO SIGN SB 585 which will help clarify that Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) funds may be used to fund Laura's Law. Phone: (916) 445-2841. Fax: (916) 558-3160 and use his online contact form.

Laura's Law allows courts to order a small group of people who have serious mental illness and a history of dangerousness to stay in treatment as a condition of living in the community. It has reduced arrest, incarceration, hospitalization and length of hospitalization in the two counties that use Laura's Law.

Two Reasons Counties Haven't Implemented Laura's Law:
There are two reasons more counties don't implement Laura's Law. Three million dollars in Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funds are going to Disability Rights California and they are using those funds to threaten to sue counties that use any MHSA funds to implement Laura's Law even though such expenditure is clearly allowed. Laura's Law requires county boards of supervisors to vote to implement Laura's Law and simultaneously certify that no voluntary programs will be cut to do it.

Steinberg initially promised to help:
In reaction to widespread outrage that people were being denied access to MHSA funded programs merely because they were so sick they were eligible for Laura's Law, Senator Steinberg introduced SB 585 in early April. The ostensible purpose was to clarify that MHSA funds could be used for people in Laura's Law. But Steinberg weakened his own bill. He added back a requirement that other bills by other legislators would have removed. Specifically, he added back a requirement that boards of supervisors vote (directly or through the budget process) to implement Laura's Law. And he added back a requirement that counties certify no voluntary programs will get cut to implement Laura's Law.

Unfortunately, SB 585 is the only bill Steinberg would let pass. And since it does somewhat clarify that MHSA funds can be used for Laura's Law, we are supporting it. Contact Governor Jerry Brown immediately (Sept. 2013) and urge him to sign SB 585 which will help clarify that Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) funds may be used to fund Laura's Law. Phone: (916) 445-2841 Fax: (916) 558-3160

Posted by Mental Illness Policy Org on Sep. 03, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

Dan Brzovic should do his homework before making obsolete; broad statments. Anognosia is a condition among seriously Mentally ill, senior dementia sufferers and even stroke victims. it is lack of insight due to physical issues in the BRSIN. It is NOT DENIAL! it goes to the heart of comoetency and thus to the house of cards Mr Brxovic has constructed. his argunent falls before scientific reslity. there is a right to choice...only those who are sane enough to see their condition are sane enough to mae the choice

Posted by waltinseattle on Sep. 03, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

After I initially commented I appear to have clicked
on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a
comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment.
There has to be a means you can remove me from that service?
Many thanks!

“Slipping away” was in fact in fact compelling and enlightening!
In modern society that’s tricky to execute. I am grateful, Nannie

Posted by on Dec. 24, 2013 @ 11:02 am

Laura's Law is a dangerous, cynical tool of the pharmaceutical industry to expand the sale of its products, which is already booming because of maneuvers it has undertaken such as the forcing of millions of young school children onto mind and life destroying drugs like Ritalin to supposedly cure 'ADHD'.

The primary group lobbying for punitive police state laws like Laura's law (which will indeed force innocent victims trapped in the criminal justice system, against their will, onto psychiatric pharmaceuticals) is an 'organization' called NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness)

NAMI receives vast amounts of its funding, and other supports, from the pharmaceutical industry.

To see a report on this relationship of NAMI with the drug industry go to:

To see a report on how the Big Pharma has similarly used faux 'advocacy organization' front groups like CHADD to trick tens of millions of people into taking destructive pharmaceuticals for the concocted disease 'ADHD' go to:

And another good roundup on all of this vile, industry driven hooking of our nation on Big Pharma's drugs is at:

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 11:15 am

Jason Grant Garza read where the BYLINE in 2007 is " This is nuts: A bizarre tale of the insanity that is SF's mental health system.' Then read where the BYLINE is Access Denied: No Health Care, No Lawyer, No Justice for One SF Man."

Then go to where DPH under Barbara Garcia 554-2525 break the LAW. Does it remind you of the FRAUD in federal court that you read about in the above article entitled "CRAZY?" Look at the youtube videos to see the effort made to hold accountable and watch the GAMES, INHUMANITY and continued LAWBREAKING activity ... then watch the youtube videos where neither the Sheriff nor SFPD KNOWS who ENFORCES MEDICAL LAW. WHY should DPH worry about BREAKING the LAW?

Why does all this happen ... because NO ONE ENFORCES MEDICAL LAW so just IMAGINE the GAMES, DECEIT and MISDIRECTION in regard to MENTAL MEDICAL CARE ... I mean if they can not come clean nor account with restitution nor humanity ... do you really believe that they will be accountable in MENTAL HEALTH? I have a signed confession where the city BROKE FEDERAL MANDATED MEDICAL LAW in 2001 and in 2003 comitted FRAUD and TESTILYING in federal court ( C02-3485PJH ) to have ny case dismissed ONLY to sign a confession in 2007 with the OFFICE of INSPECTOR GENERAL - H&HS admitting fault and guilt and THEN left its INNOCENT VINDICATED VICTIM for DEAD. Now it has started all over again ... so before you believe their "GOOD INTENTIONS" know the TRUTH and RIGGED FALSE CONCERN to gather sympathy for themselves while NOT PERFORMING nor begin ACCOUNTABLE. Look at the youtube videos ... ask yourself why this happening, what is the CONSEQUENCE, etc. And as added measure ask Barbara Garcia 554-2525, or the city attorney ... why I have an arrest record (never having been arrest before) sitting next to a signed confession for a CRIME the CITY committed! Then ask WHY NO ONE FROM DPH, the city attorney nor the COURTS have explained less provided RESTITUTION, REMEDY or CONTRITION.

See the GAME ... I mean mental health care ... they can NOT come clean nor perform as my youtube videos represent ... how do you expect them to CARE or be responsible?

Checkout the videos going to the IRRESPONSIBLE city agencies in charge of compliance. The office of citizen's complaints (SFPD) the Mayor's Office on Disabilities (Enforcement of ADA and Disabiltiy Right Laws - what a farce) and The Human Rights Commission ( in charge of access and accommodation complaints - watch them break the law and deny me access.) See the videos of seeking LEGAL RIGHT protect at the Sheriff or SFPD or Police Commission or Chief of Police. Can you say RIGGED and INHUMANE?

Keep drinking he KOOL-AID since without ENFORCEMENT ... they will spin, misspeak, mis-spend, reclassify lawbreaking activity into service disagreements, lie in court and whatever since there is NO CONSEQUENCE.

call SFPD 553-1551 call the Sheriff 554-7225 and watch the videos for the doublespeak, nonperformance and additional INHUMANITY.


Oh and by the way the SF Bay Guardian DOES NOT CARE either ... type Jason Grant Garza into their search engine to see how many articles I have commented on, how I have written to Rebecca (no response) and how when articles appear in regard to health care I comment and I have not heard from SFBG staff to followup ... I mean look at their article in 2007 ... you would THINK I would be contacted with all the videos, signed confession, court records, etc ... oh that is RIGHT they TOO do NOT care just like DPH ... just continuing the ILLUSION.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

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