Bill would help repay county for cost of trials for mentally disordered offenders

A bill by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian would clear up confusion about which state account should be tapped to repay San Luis Obispo and other counties for the costs of dealing with mentally disordered offenders.

According to a news release from Achadjian's office, MDO trials occur “when a violent, mentally disordered offender who has been ordered to serve his or her parole in a state mental hospital files a petition with the court requesting to be released back into the community.”

Atascadero State Hospital houses approximately 90 percent of the state’s mentally disordered offenders, Achadjian wrote in the news release, and San Luis Obispo County conducts 500 such trials each year on behalf of the state.

Legislation to reimburse counties has been in place since 2006, but the state controller last year said it was unclear which state account should provide the money.

Payments were halted, according to Achadjian’s news release. San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Gerald Shea contacted Achadjian, who is helping to clear the roadblock by shepherding his AB 1016 through the Assembly Public Safety Committee, where it passed unanimously.

The bill allows the state controller to reimburse counties for MDO trials by using state funds that are meant to reimburse local governments for costs associated with housing state inmates.

Thanking Achadjian for the legislation, Shea wrote that the bill will “aid my office’s efforts to ensure that mentally disordered offenders are not prematurely released.”

AB 1016 now goes to the Assembly appropriations committee, and Shea and Achadjian said they will work to move it through the Legislature and on to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

Achadjian represents all of San Luis Obispo County and part of Santa Barbara County.