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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 16th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 11 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 11

Laura's Law pilot program gets another year of county funding

By BRENNA SWANSTON

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 at its May 16 meeting to fund the county’s Laura’s Law pilot program for another year.

Laura’s Law, or the Behavioral Wellness Department’s Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Program, has operated for four months as a pilot program, aiming to provide extensive outreach and engagement to Santa Barbara County residents experiencing severe mental illnesses. The Board of Supervisors voted on Nov. 8, 2016, to implement the program in a three-year pilot phase that started Jan. 1.

Since AOT’s implementation, seven of the program’s 16 clients have been successfully linked to mental health services, according to a board letter from Behavioral Wellness Director Alice Gleghorn. But with major county budget cuts on the horizon, Gleghorn found herself back before the board on May 16, advocating for further funding.

“It’s always a good day for me when we’re discussing funding for mental health services,” Gleghorn said at the meeting. “We all agree, and research shows, that these are effective services.”

Gleghorn presented three potential funding options to the board: To continue funding the AOT pilot project for six months, which would cost the general fund $331,858; to fund it for 12 months at a cost of $606,888; or to cut off funding altogether. Most supervisors and public commenters, such as Tom Franklin of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, spoke in support of the second option.

Franklin referred to one of his own family members, who suffers from severe mental illness and is currently incarcerated.

“I truly believe that if Laura’s Law had been implemented two years ago, my loved one would not be in custody right now,” he said at the meeting. “Laura’s Law can’t help my family member at this point, but there are hundreds of people that could still be helped. Laura’s Law works, and we’re hoping you’ll give it a chance.”

Supervisor Das Williams, who represents the 1st District, moved for the 12-month funding option, and it passed 4-1. Adam, who cast the only dissenting vote, said he would “love to support” the program but couldn’t do so because the board had voted earlier that day to allocate a large chunk of the general fund to employee raises.

“I’m not going to support it, because we gave away over a million dollars this morning on raises to some people who work for in-home supportive services,” Adam said at the meeting. “People here have to understand, both on this side of the dais and that side, that this is a zero-sum game. Everybody can’t get funding. If somebody gets funding, somebody else doesn’t.”

Even so, AOT should live to see another year of pilot program funding. The item will appear in the board’s June budget hearings, at which point the supervisors will vote on final budget allocations for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.