Help for people with mental illness

By Supervisor Dave Roberts

May is Mental Health Month, which the County of San Diego and many of its affiliates have observed through events and screenings.

In 1949, Mental Health America – a Virginia-based advocacy group – launched the observance. This year’s theme is, “Mind Your Health.”

Increasing public recognition and understanding of mental health issues is important. During 17 months in office, I am proud to have advanced a number of mental health reforms. And I am always pleased to support our mental health partners.

At our May 20 meeting, Supervisor Greg Cox and I awarded a proclamation to local representatives of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Earlier, with the support of my colleagues, I presented a county proclamation to Jewish Family Services to recognize that organization’s strong attention to mental health issues.

Within San Diego County, the largest provider of social services is the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. Led by Alfredo Aguirre, our behavioral health program deserves kudos for its aggressive effort to strip the stigma from mental illness.

In refreshingly plain language, our “It’s Up to Us” campaign communicates that mental health challenges affect 1 in 4 adults, that help is available and that people who suffer from mental illness are not alone. Learn more at

At the policy level, I have worked with my colleagues, Mr. Aguirre and his team to advance mental health legislation.

In March 2013, Supervisor Dianne Jacob and I received a 5-0 vote to analyze Laura’s Law and how it compares with an existing county program, In Home Outreach Team. Laura’s Law allows for court-ordered outpatient treatment of severely mentally-ill people who refuse care, while IHOT employs teams to make house calls on adult patients who resist care. IHOT also supports family members dealing with mental illness of a loved one.

Three months later, Supervisors agreed with staff recommendations and voted 5-0 to expand IHOT and make the program available to anyone in the county who needs it. Our action included a $500,000 appropriation to beef up the program.

In the fall of 2013, Supervisor Ron Roberts and I brought forward disaster preparedness legislation designed to ensure the safety of people with special needs. Our proposal, which passed on a 5-0 vote, addressed the transportation and medical needs of people with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities in the event of a disaster.

Most recently, in March, I submitted legislation requesting a staff analysis of the so-called “5270 hold,” which would provide 30 days for county authorities to care for gravely-disabled clients. Implementation of W&I Code 5270.10 is left to individual counties, and so far, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento and 14 others have done so. In those counties, officials rightly discarded cumbersome and expensive processes that required petitioning the court for temporary conservatorship.

Last month in San Diego, Supervisors concurred with a staff recommendation and voted 5-0 to implement the state law, which puts us in league with other “5270 counties.”

We want to help people and not complicate their lives with court papers. And with all of our programs, we strive to do our best for mentally-ill people and the taxpaying public.

Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.