Wednesday, January 22, 2014

What Kentucky can learn from Laura's Law and the tragic death of Kelly Thomas!

"Some in Lexington and supporters of the HOPE Center may remember A Night of Hope with The Soloist author Steve Lopez, a few years ago. Steven was guest of honor, promoting his book 'The Soloist' and sharing stories about “Nathaniel Anthony Ayers” 
Steven wrote this story in the LA Times about how he hopes that Kelly Thomas’s death will inspire CA to fully implement Laura’s Law – AOT. Kentucky should learn from by the tragedies that have unfolded in other states. We can avoid similar senseless tragedies by supporting SB 50 in 2014. "

Law could be Kelly Thomas' legacy

The death of a mentally ill homeless man could give Orange County authorities incentive to approve Laura's Law, which allows court-ordered treatment.

January 21, 20148:08 p.m.

It's hard for me to even think about the horrific way in which Kelly Thomas died. I know too many people like him - lost, sick, disoriented souls who, through no fault of their own, have been hit with a disease that puts them in peril.

Not guilty, came the verdict last week. The two Fullerton police officers caught on camera viciously beating Thomas in 2011 were acquitted of criminal wrongdoing in his death.

Whether you agree or disagree with the jury, there's plenty of guilt to go around. And either we haven't learned any lessons from Thomas' death, or we haven't acted on what we've learned.

 in News

"Why was Kelly given a death sentence? Because he was mentally ill, disheveled, unmedicated and in public," said Carla Jacobs, a mental health advocate in Orange County. She said she has heard from families afraid to call the police when their loved ones are in distress for fear of having them become the next Kelly Thomas.

"The reality," Jacobs said, "is that our mental health system is complicit in Kelly's death. It is not geared to protect those with the most serious illness, keep them off the streets and out of cops' purview."

Laura's Law is controversial, but many frustrated families, who despite their best efforts can't help seriously ill loved ones, believe it could literally be a life saver in some cases.

But the law is aimed at only a small segment of the afflicted population, and there is still a critical shortage of services we know can work for the rest of those with serious mental disorders - outreach, intervention and supportive housing.

Ron Thomas, the father Kelly called for while being beaten unconscious, is distraught by last week's verdict but is as determined as ever to see public policy changes in his son's memory.

A former Orange County sheriff's deputy, Thomas told me he welcomes implementation of Laura's Law, but he wants more. He wants disciplinary action against police officers to be made public, so violence-prone cops can be weeded out. And he believes, as does Jacobs, that there should be mandatory mental health training for all peace officers.

"I think there should be in-depth training for dealing with the homeless and mentally ill, and it should start in the academy and be part of post-certification," Thomas said. "And I think it needs to be followed up with continuous training, the way they do with firearms."

Read more here:,0,5218519.column#ixzz2rCddkV00