State Senator Henry Stern, along with several other legislators, submitted a request to The Joint Legislative Audit Committee to examine county practices and make recommendations for treating the gravely disabled. Submitted by Senators Stern, John Moorlach and Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers Phillip Chen, Laura Friedman and Miguel Santiago, the audit will provide critical insight into the application of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act by Los Angeles County and two other counties selected by the State Auditor. 

“Our moral responsibility is to help those without the capacity to help themselves— and this audit will help us understand where our counties are succeeding and where they’re coming up short,” said Senator Henry Stern. “The freedom to die on our streets is no freedom at all. We cannot stop working to protect the gravely disabled until all Californians who desperately need care receive it.” 

“A review of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act by the state Legislature is long overdue just given what we know about people with mental illness who are dying homeless on our streets or caught in our criminal system,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, founder of the Steinberg Institute, which sponsored the audit request. “This is a fundamental law, and it is extremely important that its implementation is effective and consistent so that gravely disabled citizens of California get the care they need and deserve.” 

The Lanterman Petris Short Act (LPS Act), enacted in 1967, provides guidelines to handle involuntary civil commitment for individuals living with mental illness in California. Because of a lack of clarity in the law, each county interprets its responsibilities and applies the LPS Act differently. In light of a years-long legislative effort to improve mental healthcare delivery and conservatorship programs for the gravely disabled and recent news surrounding the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles County, this audit will give legislators the opportunity to take an even deeper dive into the state of affairs for our gravely disabled populations. 

In 2018, there were a number of significant bills introduced that impacted the LPS Act. SB 1045, coauthored by Senators Stern and Wiener, created a pilot program that allows San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles Counties to place persons who are chronically homeless and incapable of caring for their health and wellbeing, due to mental illness and substance abuse disorders, into a conservatorship. This year, the authors have introduced SB 40 to enhance that pilot program, and California’s budget will contain roughly $1 billion to fight the homelessness epidemic, including $650 million going directly to cities and counties. 

The audit will seek to review and determine a number of issues, including: 

• The number of individuals placed under involuntary holds, the referral sources for those holds, and the number of individuals placed under consecutive initial holds. 

• The number of individuals placed under subsequent holds and the number of individuals placed into new and renewed conservatorships and the referral sources for those conservatorships. 

• The average length of conservatorships, the number of terminated conservatorships and the reasons for the termination. 

•    The counties’ implementation of the LPS Act for the last three years, reviewing the counties’ definition and application of criteria for involuntary treatment holds and conservatorships. 

• The utility of changes in state law or regulation given differing county approaches. 

• The availability of treatment resources in each county and to the extent possible 

determine whether there are barriers to achieving the intent of the LPS Act.