On Oct. 4, 2001, California Gov. Gray Davis signed into law a bill that will allow courts to consider the patient's mental health history during commitment hearings. Sponsored by Democrat Assemblywoman Helen Thomson, AB 1424 also prohibits insurers from denying payment based on whether the hospitalization was voluntary or involuntary.
The new law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2002, has four basic provisions:
- Information from family members, the patient or their representative, and medical records must be considered by the court as evidence of mental health history.
- The police may consider information on the patient's mental health history provided by family members when determining probable cause for taking a patient into custody for evaluation and treatment.
- Irrelevant information may not be considered as evidence during commitment hearings.
- Insurers may not use voluntary or involuntary commitment status as criteria for reimbursement.
In a statement to the press the day after the bill was signed, Thomson said, "AB 1424 will eliminate some of the barriers to family members and at the same time improve the quality and accuracy of information used to determine who needs court-ordered mental health services. It will also end a disincentive to persons suffering from a severe mental illness to seek voluntary mental health inpatient services, which are medically necessary. It's outrageous that insurers were denying coverage for inpatient psychiatric care unless it was involuntary care."
The new law was introduced in response to a series of legislative hearings across the state to help reform the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. That act attempted to reduce the number of patients committed to psychiatric facilities--TB
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