May 30, 2013, 3:20am PDT
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, shown here in 2011, authored a measure that would give counties more options for individuals with severe mental illness who are facing involuntary treatment — and could relieve overcrowded local emergency rooms struggling to cope with the issue.
The state Senate has approved a measure that would give counties more options for individuals with severe mental illness who are facing involuntary treatment — and could relieve overcrowded local emergency rooms struggling to cope with the issue.
Senate Bill 364 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg sailed out of the Senate Tuesday by unanimous bipartisan vote of 39-0.
The bill broadens placement choices for individuals subject to 72-hour involuntary commitment under Section 5150 of the state Welfare and Institutions Code. It allows patients to be treated without being detained and to get treatment in less restrictive settings. It also promotes more appropriate treatment by encouraging counties to develop training programs for mental health workers.
“This bill is a foundation for our larger effort in the budget that would provide more crisis mental health professionals and fund the building of another 2,000 mental health residential beds throughout California,” Steinberg said in a news release. “Instead of being taken to our jails, hospital emergency rooms or locked psychiatric facilities, those individuals with crisis mental health needs deserve better places to go to get the appropriate treatment they need.”
Hospital officials hope the measure will take the pressure off local emergency rooms still crowded with mental health patients with no place to go.
“The system still is not working. We need crisis stabilization,” said Scott Seamons, regional vice president for the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California. “We’ve learned, through sad experience, that bills with funding don’t happen. We’re hopeful this will generate some better, more clear utilization of funds that will ultimately provide alternatives,” he added. “If there is no real money for crisis stabilization, it’s Proposition 63 all over again — you don’t ever see the money.”