PRESS RELEASE: City Council Calls for Expanded Definition of Grave Disability

Los Angeles, CA -- The Los Angeles City Council approved a Resolution Wednesday calling for much-needed state legislation that would expand the definition of “gravely disabled” to include "medical treatment where the lack or failure of such treatment results in substantial physical harm or death.” The expanded definition would allow officials to more effectively treat preventable causes of death among the homeless population and allow for a higher standard of care to homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. The Resolution was co-introduced by Councilmembers Ryu, Huizar, Englander, and Buscaino.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

February 14, 2018

Press Contact:

Ryu: Estevan Montemayor - estevan.montemayor@lacity.org (213) 605-4145

Huizar: Rick Coca - rick.coca@lacity.org (213) 200-9974

Englander: Colin Sweeney - colin.sweeney@lacity.org 213-804-5811

Buscaino: Branimir Kvartuc - branimir.kvartuc@lacity.org (213) 248-7954

 

City Council Calls for Expanded Definition of Grave Disability

The Resolution joins the County Board of Supervisors in Demanding Reform to State Law

 

Los Angeles, CA -- The Los Angeles City Council approved a Resolution Wednesday calling for much-needed state legislation that would expand the definition of “gravely disabled” to include "medical treatment where the lack or failure of such treatment results in substantial physical harm or death.” The expanded definition would allow officials to more effectively treat preventable causes of death among the homeless population and allow for a higher standard of care to homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. The Resolution was co-introduced by Councilmembers Ryu, Huizar, Englander, and Buscaino.

Councilmember Ryu, who chairs the Health, Education, and Neighborhood Councils Committee, previously served as a Director at Kedren Acute Psychiatric Hospital and Community Health Center. On January 30, Ryu submitted a letter in support of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ motion that also sought an expanded definition of gravely disabled.

“Today, the Los Angeles City Council stands with our County partners in calling for this necessary reform to the way we define a grave disability,” Councilmember Ryu said. “The chronic homeless suffer from much higher rates of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, and to address our crisis of homelessness in LA, we need to reach these individuals.”

As a member of the City’s Homelessness & Poverty Committee and co-author of Measure HHH, the $1.2 billion homeless housing bond, Councilmember Huizar is one of the City’s leaders in creating policy to address homelessness.

“We’ve known for a long time that a third of those experiencing homelessness in the City and County of Los Angeles are grappling with mental health issues – many with severe illnesses that they cannot manage on their own,” said Councilmember Huizar. “We see it every day on the streets of Los Angeles. The state must act to change this designation to prevent deaths, as well as to give these individuals the opportunity to live a quality life – they deserve no less.”

An expanded definition of the state grave disability law would include people who cannot access healthcare because of mental illness. It would allow service providers and first responders to administer involuntary care to an individual if that individual would face immediate harm or death without such care.

"Medical intervention is the crucial missing piece as we seek to address the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles," said Councilmember Mitchell Englander, Chair of the Public Safety Committee. "Our first responders cannot be effective in assisting those experiencing serious mental health crises if they cannot compel care for those unwilling or unable to help themselves. This change will allow us to deliver life changing services to those that need it most."

A January 10 report to the County Board of Supervisors from Department of Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin found that a "significant number'' of the 831 deaths of homeless people in Los Angeles County in 2017 were due to preventable or treatable medical conditions.

“Before joining the Los Angeles City Council, I served as an LAPD officer for 15 years, and on many occasions, I encountered homeless individuals who were soaked in their own urine or lying in their feces and completely malnourished,” said Councilman Joe Buscaino. “Yet due to the narrow definition for 'gravely disabled,' I was not able to get these people to the medical care they desperately needed. This is why we must expand the definition so that we do not continue to leave people who cannot help themselves to suffer and die on our streets.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors motion was approved on January 30, 2018. Together, the City and County call upon California State lawmakers to expand this definition while maintaining safeguards to protect an individual’s rights so that first responders can help the sizable homeless population suffering from mental illness.

Read the Resolution here.

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