Laura's Law — so named after a mentally ill man shot college student Laura Wilcox in Nevada County in 2001 — allows a judge more quickly to put a severely mentally ill person under supervised care in which in they are made to take medication. This seems like an uncontroversial idea, however the law, as the Chron reports today, is only being voluntarily enforced by two counties in California right now, Nevada and Los Angeles, because many mental health advocates don't believe it's necessary.

The law is intended only for the 5% or so of mentally ill people who are so deranged they don't know that they need medication, and could potentially be a danger to others. There's an older law on the books, the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which was enacted in order to cut back on mandatory hospitalization of mentally ill patients. Under that law, "a patient must be determined by a judge to be a danger to himself or others before being ordered to undergo involuntary psychiatric treatment. Most stays, however, are only 72 hours, and it can take two years of legal maneuvering before a longer stay is ordered."