Reports are coming in that Britney left L.A. and went to Mexico with her new boyfriend, paparazzo Adnan Ghalib, because her family was planning an intervention. (Between her parents and Dr. Phil, is it any wonder she'd feel the urge to skip town?) But Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times suggests that what Britney really needs is reform of the California mental healthcare code. "In the 1950s and '60s, care for the mentally ill gave off a Dickensian vibe," she writes. "People were locked away in state hospitals for months, years, for life. Too many times, they weren't insane — just old and dotty, or inconvenient, or different and difficult." Back in the day, a person could be put away just for walking down the street talking to herself. Attacking a car with an umbrella or the head-shaving incident? Britney would have been in a straightjacket.
The system was reformed about 40 years ago: Legislators created laws that gave mental patients rights and made it harder to lock them up for long periods against their will. Now, writes Morrison, "There's a Mad Pride movement among some mental patients who say they have a right to be crazy. And there are heartbroken families begging the courts time and again to intervene on behalf of loved ones who won't take medicine, won't see doctors." How do you help someone who doesn't want help?
Laura's Law, which became effective in 2003, is a California statute that allows a judge to order treatment for someone after medical and legal hearings. It was named after honor student Laura Wilcox, who was working at a mental health center when she was killed by a man who couldn't be forced to take his meds. Morrison asks, "What would a Britney's Law look like?" And is a new law the answer, or does it lie elsewhere?