Santa Clara County leaders urge passing law to help homeless people suffering mental illness

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors are investigating ways to help homeless people deemed severely mentally challenged. Officials say 11,000 residents are currently classified as homeless. But a less certain number are in need of help that can only come from conservatorship.

“Our mentally ill homeless need intensive services. Services that the city cannot provide,” said Councilman Johnny Khamis.

At San Jose City Hall Tuesday, Khamis, and Councilman Raul Peralez, urged the county board of supervisors to act. Each argued mental health issues have reached crisis proportions.

Matt Mahan knows the problem personally while helping a friend suffering with bi-polar disorder..

“If his family and I had not intervened, and gotten him into a long-term mental healthcare facility, he would quite possibly be one of the people we see on the streets today,” said Mahan, a Laura’s Law proponent.

A half-dozen elected leaders in the county have penned a letter to the board of supervisors, asking them to enact Laura’s Law, and allow for conservatorship of the severely mentally challenged who would benefit. Officials say five Bay Area counties have already done so, with a high degree of success..

“It’s an affirmation, and we appreciate that,” said County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

She said she’s empathetic to the request, but that Laura’s Law may not be the right vehicle..

“For many people, they’re gonna need permanent placement. Laura’s Law is temporary. And it’s for assertive outpatient treatment,” said Chavez.

Chavez and the other supervisors passed a measure asking staffers to study the issue and how effective Laura’s Law might be in helping homeless who are serverely mentally challenged.

Supervisors will wait for staff to get back to them with suggestions and possible solutions. But one of the first things they agree they need to do is quantify how many people are in need of this kind of help.