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LOS ANGELES COUNTY –The Board of Supervisors today voted 4-1 with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl opposing, to approve a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Mark Ridley-Thomas sponsoring state legislation amending the state’s definition of gravely disabled to enable the county to provide critical medical care for the mentally ill. 

Numerous mental health professionals and advocates voiced support for the motion including Dr. Susan Patrovi, Medical Director of Homeless Healthcare LA, Brittney Weissman, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Los Angeles County Council and Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu.

Supervisor Barger pointed out that more than 830 homeless people died on the streets of L.A. County last year and that with proper medical attention, the deaths could have been prevented.   “Allowing the most vulnerable to languish and even die on the streets without a lifeline to medical care is inhumane,” she said.  “With today’s action, we can move forward to employ an effective approach to help deliver lifesaving treatment and care for those desperately in need and add California to 37 other states who consider medical treatment a basic human need for those suffering from a mental illness.” 

The legislation would amend the state’s definition of “gravely disabled” pursuant to the recommendation by the Department of Mental Health (DMH), to read, "a condition in which a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal needs for food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment where the lack or failure of such treatment may result in substantial physical harm or death."  This proposed addition (in the underlined section above) is similar to the criteria used in 37 states nationwide.

On October 31, 2017 the Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Barger that directed DMH to work with mental health advocacy groups, civil rights organizations, and other stakeholders to develop this legislative recommendation. 

“Acknowledging that signs of physical harm due to self-neglect as a result of serious mental conditions are a rational and objective means for detecting grave disability,” said Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.