June 23, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

Board Of Supervisors Voted To Study Increase Of Criminal Defendants Requests For Mental Competency Hearings

(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, March 8, to study the reason for a nearly four-fold increase in the number of criminal defendants requesting mental competency hearings over the last five years.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis recommended taking a look at the issue after the Los Angeles Times reported on the hike in cases.

The county’s Mental Health Court, which evaluates defendants to determine whether they are mentally competent to stand trial, has seen a jump from 944 to 3,528 cases annually from 2010-2015, according to The Times. The number almost doubled from 2014 to 2015.

An advocate for individuals with mental illness told the board the increase was due to a lack of resources that keeps people cycling between emergency rooms, jail cells and life on the street.

“We believe it corresponds directly with the lack of capacity in the mental health system as a whole,” said Brittney Weissman, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Los Angeles County Council.

Weissman said the state’s mental health funding supports outpatient treatment, which may work for those who recognize that they need help, but does little to benefit those in need of more acute care.

Those declared incompetent to stand trial for felony offenses are typically ordered to be transferred to a state hospital for inpatient evaluation and treatment. But beds are scarce and there is a statewide wait list averaging 200-300 people, according to the supervisors’ motion.

The board called for a report back in 60 days and asked that it include recommendations on how to best serve those who are mentally incompetent to stand trial.

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