12/16/2011 12:15 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2012

Report: Laura's Law Works for Mentally Ill Los Angelenos

A little noted Laura's Law Progress Report quietly filed by the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health earlier this year shows Laura's Law has reduced the incarceration and hospitalization of people with severe mental illness and saved taxpayers money which can be used for other purposes.

Laura's Law allows courts to order certain historically violent, dangerous, or incarcerated individuals to accept treatment as a condition of living in the community. To be eligible individuals must have a serious mental illness that causes them to be unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, and been in a hospital, prison or jail at least twice within the last thirty-six months; or involved in acts, attempts or threats of serious violent behavior toward self or others within the last forty-eight months.

In addition to these stringent criteria meant to apply the program only to those who need it the most, L.A. also required them to meet extra criteria that theoretically would make these individuals even more difficult to treat.The results were outstanding:

Laura's Law reduced incarceration 78%
During the six months prior to enrollment in AOT, program participants were incarcerated for approximately 388 days. But during the six months after enrollment in AOT they were incarcerated for only 85 days, a reduction of 78%.

Laura's Law reduced hospitalization 86%
During the six months prior to Laura's Law participants were hospitalized for 345 days. While enrolled in Laura's Law only one person was hospitalized (for 49 days) for a reduction of 86%.

Laura's Law reduced hospitalization 77% even after discharge from Laura's Law
Since discharge from Laura's Law participants had 81 days of hospitalization, or a reduction of 77% in days of hospitalization.

These results are from a small pilot study, but are consistent with results in Nevada County, CA results in New York and other states that use laws like this to improve patient care, keep public and patients safer and save money. California counties are among the last in the nation to make use of this treatment modality. The services are funded with Mental Health Services Act funding.

Los Angeles Supervisor Michael Antonovich estimated Laura's Law cut taxpayer costs 40% and called for hearings which will be held on Tuesday, December 20.