The Board of Supervisors in Los Angeles County on Tuesday approved a motion that asks the legislators in California to amend the way grave disability is defined. The request was in a bid to give state authorities more power to treat homeless people who are mentally ill by all means necessary including the use of force. The motion comes at a critical time when there have been reports of increased deaths for the homeless people who reside in Los Angeles County. According to a statistic that was recently released by the coroner’s office in Los Angeles County, over 800 homeless people lost their lives in 2017 alone when compared to 2013 when there were only 458 homeless people who died.
A report from the Department of Mental health in the County suggested that a significant number of those deaths were caused by medicals conditions which could have been prevented. Under the Lanterman-Petris-Short legislations which were approved back in the year 1967, law enforcement has been permitted to take an individual into custody for mental treatment if psychiatric illnesses prevent them from leading a decent life due to failure to meet their basic needs such as shelter, clothing and food.
The motion that is set to be deliberated on Tuesday seeks to get California pass a bill that will widen the definition for the gravely disabled to include residents who are not able to seek for medical attention due to their psychiatric condition. Broadening the scope of the severely disabled legislation will enable state officials to put individuals who have mental illnesses on psychiatric holds that are involuntary. Such a situation will only happen if a court of law determines that the individual’s psychiatric condition prevents them from meeting their basic human needs. However, some opponents argue that the involuntary treatment of the mentally ill infringes the inherent right of every citizen to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.