Newsom’s ‘new strategy’ would force some homeless and mentally ill Californians into treatment | State and Region

Governor Gavin Newsom has unveiled a long-awaited proposal to address an increasingly visible mental health crisis on California’s trash-strewn sidewalks and cramped jail cells.

The proposal, known as the Court for Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (or CARE), would provide a framework for courts to compel people with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders to undergo treatment, while providing participants with supportive housing and complementary services. .

“It’s a whole new strategy,” Newsom told a news conference today to outline the new plan. “And hopefully that will create space for a different conversation than we’ve had in the past.”

All 58 counties would be required to participate in the program, which is currently only a policy framework and has yet to be approved by the Legislative Assembly. Counties could face penalties for failing to provide required services, administration officials said.

It’s one of many details that differentiates this proposal from Laura’s Law, which also involves court-ordered treatment but allows counties to decide whether they want to participate. Newsom noted that in one year only 218 people were served by Laura’s Law. The Newsom administration estimates that the CARE Court program could serve between 7,000 and 12,000 Californians.

Administration officials say the new proposal is different, in part because of the resources that come with it. It builds on a $12 billion allocation to address homelessness last year, as well as an additional $2 billion proposed this year, they said.

Individuals could enter the program through short-term involuntary hospital stays (also referred to as “5150”), through the criminal justice system, or through referral from family members, mental health providers, or first responders. stakeholders, among others. They would not need to be homeless to participate.

The court would order a tailored plan involving a combination of housing, medication and services, and offer the support of a full clinical team, as well as a public defender and “supporter” who could help a participant make decisions care and prepare for advanced care. mental health guidelines.

Unlike guardianships, which can be indefinite, participation would be time-limited – one year, with the possibility of a further one-year extension.

A stream of state and local leaders spoke about the urgency of the need at the press conference, held at the San Jose campus of Momentum for Health, a behavioral health treatment organization.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Stephen Manley, a widely regarded trailblazer who presided over that county’s mental health court for decades, told those gathered, “We need to stop trying to fix a broken system that is quickly, in my opinion, what I see every day, taking us back to where we were 100 years ago, when the answer for the mentally ill was just to incarcerate them, put them in the hospital and keep them there until they die.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, whose city has seen a dramatic explosion of encampments in its parks, vacant lots and underpasses, described joining the city’s homeless count on a recent morning freezing. She lost her temper chasing a rat from a sleeping woman, she said. She later learned that the woman had spent three years living in the same place, feeding rats because they were her “chosen company” and refusing services.

“She had been offered care, shelter, housing countless times but left to freeze on the sidewalk in our city,” Schaaf said.

“It’s time for our Golden State to stop treading on our greatest moral disgrace and face it with clarity and compassion,” she said.

With the new proposal, heads of state are trying to chart a new course beyond the decades-long stalemate around the involuntary treatment of the most seriously mentally ill.

Dr Mark Ghaly, Health and Human Services Secretary, described the need to move beyond ‘old and broken patterns’. The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which set the standards for the involuntary treatment of people with disabilities, was passed in 1967, more than half a century ago. In recent years, much of the debate about how to serve people with serious mental illness has focused on whether or not to change this law. Bills that pass through the Legislative Assembly are always grappling with this issue.

Newsom was careful to emphasize his interest in working with disability rights groups on the new proposal.

Kevin Baker, director of government relations for ACLU California Action, said in an email to CalMatters that his organization is “keeping an open mind” while waiting to see more details, while noting that “there are a million questions and a million things that could be wrong.”

“The problem of homelessness is caused by the cost of housing, and we will not solve the problems of homelessness, mental health or addictions in our communities by locking people up and drugging them against their will”, a- he declared. “New funding for housing and services would be good, if we also keep in mind that people don’t lose their civil liberties just because the government wants to help them, however sincerely.

He added that he thought the proposal was a significant and complex change to the law that should be heard by legislative committees and “not quietly slipped into a budget bill, because I hear it may be the plan”.

County behavioral health departments would take a significant responsibility in implementing the new plan. Michelle Doty Cabrera, executive director of the California Behavioral Health Directors Association, told CalMatters that its members are all too aware of the “runaway train of need” for mental health services. While celebrating Newsom’s commitment to providing more funding for housing, she said she was concerned the administration was not planning to allocate enough resources for increased services.

“There is no way to extract blood from a turnip,” she said. “We are at the limit of what we can do. We need more resources to do more.

The Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians and Public Conservators of the State of California echoed that sentiment in a similar statement, saying they needed more resources to respond to the “significant impacts” the program would undoubtedly demand their services.

Randall Hagar, legislative attorney and policy consultant for the Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California, called the new proposal “really welcome.

“The governor threw down the gauntlet and said we were going to make a big change,” he said. “It’s one of the first new ideas I’ve heard in a long time.”

This story was originally published by CalMatters. Jocelyn Wiener writes about health and mental health for CalMatters, exploring the intersection between government policy and people’s lives. She worked as a journalist in her native California for nearly two decades. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Kaiser Health News, San Francisco Chronicle, and numerous other state and national publications.

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