New California Court for the Mentally Ill Tests a State’s Liberal Values

When LaVonne Collette’s adult daughter, Tamra, needed a place to stay during the pandemic after being evicted, Ms. Collette let her live in a rental property she owns in Los Angeles not far from Venice Beach. That didn’t go well.

Tamra began hoarding, stuffing the house with clothing and other items collected from charities. Ms. Collette saw signs of drug use and growing paranoia, and Tamra said she believed she was living among ghosts.

“She was telling me that my house was haunted and showing me pictures, and I would hear her screaming,” said Ms. Collette, who recounted her daughter’s behavior in documents filed in court.

Sensing in 2022 that the situation would only worsen, Ms. Collette asked her daughter to leave the house and bought her an R.V., in which she lived for a time near a creek on the west side of Los Angeles. That was better, Ms. Collette figured, than her daughter living in a tent or cardboard box. But the troubles continued. Last year, Tamra carjacked her mother outside a convenience store, her mother said in the court documents.

So when Ms. Collette, 68, saw news reports last year about a new state program that allows families to go to court to get treatment for loved ones who may be living in tent encampments and suffering from mental illnesses like schizophrenia, she found herself at the courthouse door as one of the first petitioners in Los Angeles.

“I believe that if she is not helped she’s going to die,” Ms. Colette wrote in the court filing. “And she is only 41 and she has a son who loves her and mom and brother who loves her.”

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