Supervisors call for investigation into why mental competency cases are surging

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Following a Times report on the sharp, unexplained rise in mental competency cases in Los Angeles Superior Court over the past five years, county supervisors are calling for an analysis of the causes behind the increase.

Mental competency cases heard in mental health court to determine whether defendants are fit to stand trial more than tripled from 2010 to 2015, growing from 944 to 3,528. From 2014 to 2015, the caseload jumped by nearly 50%.

The court does not compile or analyze detailed data on the types of criminal cases that end up in the mental health court. Court officials, attorneys and mental health professionals told The Times they could only guess at the reasons behind the increase.

“We need to go beyond guessing when it comes to why this is happening,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement Thursday, after she and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl proposed commissioning an analysis of the issue. “The good news is that it seems that the system is recognizing mental illness and taking it seriously. What we need now is more and better information, so that we can treat this population with compassion.”



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