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Get yourself or someone else the help they need 

I'd like to add my voice to that of the people who would like to see a better outcome when law enforcement encounters a mentally unstable person during the investigation of a crime. So far I haven't seen any mention of Laura's Law, or as it is called in SLO County, AOT (this is an acronym for assisted outpatient treatment). Our Board of Supervisors voted to enact this potent tool in 2016 as a proven way to avoid violence and repeat offenses when a person is unstable.

The text of Laura's Law is basically this: Assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) is court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment for individuals with serious mental illness who are unable to live safely in the community, but who refuse to participate in treatment on their own. The law that allows court-ordered treatment is sometimes called Laura's Law. SLO County Behavioral Health's AOT program started in March 2016 and is funded by the Mental Health Services Act.

Now the families and friends of people who are having mental health issues can contact law enforcement or the Behavioral Health office and be referred to the AOT program, which then begins the process of helping a person experiencing a crisis to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. This can happen even if the person is non-compliant, with the help of an assessment team of mental health professionals and a judge. There are known statistics from other counties in California that show utilizing Laura's Law brings a big improvement by lowering the amount of arrests, re-offenses, and violence involving the mentally unstable. It saves money and most importantly, lives. I'm hopeful that in the future, our local law enforcement will choose to use this tool when needed.

If you have a friend or loved one who needs support, remember that AOT is intended for crisis situations. There is also help available for less severe mental health issues at the San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Agency, (800) 838-1381. They also speak Spanish!

A. Lopez

Nipomo

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