City Council talks mental health services, cannabis dispensary at Tuesday meeting

Tracy Lam/Staff

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At its Tuesday meeting, Berkeley City Council voted to increase mental health services and moved forward with plans for a fourth authorized cannabis dispensary, among other actions.

Both councilmembers and Berkeley citizens contested whether the council should support recommendations from Alameda County Behavioral Health Services to increase mental health services, which were created as an alternative to AB 1421.

AB 1421, also known as Laura’s law, allows the court to force individuals to enter an assisted outpatient treatment program if they pose a danger to themselves or others, and if the severity of their disability prevents them from voluntarily seeking treatment. In California, several counties have passed the law, including San Francisco County and Contra Costa County.

City Council voted to support the implementation of 11 proposals from Alameda County but included a recommendation of its own to Alameda County, to adopt a AB 1421 pilot program that would force individuals incapable of voluntarily seeking outpatient services to do so.

Mayor Tom Bates said that he believes treatment should be voluntary, but that there needs to be options for people who do not or will not seek help.

According to city documents, assisted outpatient treatment would include psychological and substance abuse services, housing assistance and family and parenting support, among others.

“What I know from … experience is that forced coercion in the name of mental health services (does) not work,” said Berkeley resident Ann Hawkins at the meeting.

Also at the meeting, Bates motioned to postpone the process to create a fourth authorized cannabis dispensary until 2017. Bates said a ballot measure to create another dispensary might be in the 2016 election and that they should wait for those results before moving forward. Bates, however, later withdrew his motion.

The council decided to alter the process of selection for a fourth cannabis dispensary so that all six applicants can continue into the fourth stage of the process, in which applicants hold public discussions.

During the meeting, the council considered restarting the entire process, which would allow applicants who were initially dropped during stage one to re-enter with the information previously missing from their applications. The council, however, decided against this suggestion.

Among the four dropped dispensary applicants include 40 Acres, the co-founder of which has filed several lawsuits against the city.

Berkeley resident and dispensary applicant Sue Taylor said her dispensary would cater to senior citizens, whom she describes as the “most neglected, underserved” population.

“Seniors don’t want to get high, they want to get well,” Taylor said.

The Council will reconvene Oct. 6 at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at 7 p.m.


Contact Jamie Nguyen and Pressly Pratt at [email protected].