We believe that members of our community stricken with debilitating illness deserve medical treatment and a chance to get well. Unfortunately, many people with severe mental illness do not voluntarily engage in services because they are not able to recognize they are ill, a condition doctors refer to as anosognosia. Because of this lack of insight into their condition, they function at a high-risk level in terms of daily health and safety.
Although our county provides many voluntary community-based options, those who cannot voluntarily access them are left to experience deteriorating health and well-being. As a society, we are cruelly turning our backs on these individuals by not providing appropriate care and services. When the ill person’s condition deteriorates to the point that they can’t take care of their basic needs, or they pose a risk to themselves or others, they may find themselves locked up in a psychiatric hospital, or worse, incarcerated.
When it is necessary to intervene for the client's own best interests, we believe that intervention should take the least restrictive form necessary. Community based services, when appropriate, are always preferable to the trauma and disruption caused by restriction in hospital or jail. For that reason, we must have outpatient mandated treatment options. AB1421 was passed in California in 2002 to be added to California Counties’ tool-boxes of treatment possibilities. Eleven years later, Alameda County has still not acted to implement this law and create programs to serve the at-risk community it is intended to serve.
AB1421, or Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), is presided over by a judge who can compel individuals to interact with a team of professionals. Their job is to help the individual receive medical treatment and counseling, access to housing, and other basic services, while living in the community instead of behind locked doors. AOT compels engagement, but it insures that personal human rights are respected. It does not force medication and it allows participants to be involved in treatment planning. Where opponents of AOT see a slippery slope to higher levels of control, we see a way to lower the level of involuntary control that is now the inevitable result when people are allowed to descend into crisis.
At the March 18, 2013 Board of Supervisors Public Hearing on AB1421, the Behavioral Health Department was directed to provide a report on Assisted Outpatient Treatment for Alameda County. Please tell the Alameda County Supervisors and Department Members, by signing this petition, that those in our community with severe mental illness deserve protection and care; they deserve a chance at recovery; they deserve AB1421. Please sign this petition and contact your Supervisor before the October meeting of the Health Committee, and urge them to vote in favor of AB1421. You can leave a personal note about why this is important to you, and/or you can write directly to the Alameda County Behaviorial Health Cares Services Department at Comm@acbhcs.org (please include your city of residence). You can also communicate with your Alameda County Supervisor through their website, http://www.acgov.org/board/.