Newsom signs bill to create mental health courts for the homeless

With over 100,000 people living on it CaliforniaStreets of Gov. Gavin Newsom Signed the first law of its kind on Wednesday can Some of them are forced to take treatment As part of a program he describes as “caring” but opponents argue it is harsh.

Newsom signed the Community Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment Act on Wednesday. It will allow family members, first responders and others to ask a judge to develop a treatment plan for a person with certain disorders, including schizophrenia. Those who refused could be placed under guardianship and ordered to comply.

Immediately, homeless people with severe Psychological health The unrest is moving from the streets to prisons and hospitals. They can be held against their will in a psychiatric hospital for up to three days. But they should be released if they promise to take medication and pursue other services.

The new law will allow the court to order a treatment plan for up to one year, which can be extended for a second year. The plan can include medication, housing, and treatment. While it does share some elements of programs in other states, it will be the first system of its kind in the country, according to the office of Democratic state Senator Tom Omberg, a co-author of the law.

Related: CARE Court: California Senate approves Newsom’s plan to provide mental health support

For decades, California has treated homelessness as a local problem, channeling billions of dollars into city and county governments each year for various treatment programs. But despite all this spending, homelessness remains one of the most pressing and emerging issues in the country.

“Keep doing what you’ve done and you’ll get what you’ve got,” Newsom said Wednesday, before signing the law. “That’s unacceptable.” “This (law) is engineered very differently from anything I’ve seen in California, arguably in the last century.”

Some progressives have spoken out against Newsom’s ban on certain priorities, including vetoing a bill that would allow safe, supervised injection sites for drug users and opposing a new tax on millionaires that would pay for more electric cars.

But in a year when Newsom was on his way to re-election bid as speculation mounted about his presidential aspirations, this new platform drew criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, with some on the left arguing it goes too far while others on the right say it doesn’t go as far as Enough.

Newsom signed the law over the strong objections of the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, California Disability Rights and several other organizations working with the homeless, minority communities and people with disabilities who say the new program infringes on civil rights.

They say the courts are a scary place for many people with severe mental illness and that coercion contradicts the peer-based model which is critical to recovery. In other words, critics say, a person needs to want help and this may take months or years.

“There is absolutely no evidence that this plan will work. It’s just another solution than a solution,” said Yves Garrow, a policy analyst and advocate for the ACLU of Southern California. “Research shows that adding a coercive component to housing or mental health services does not increase compliance.”

The program is not exclusive to the homeless. This only applies to people with severe mental illness – most of them psychotic disorders – and only if they are not likely to live safely in the community without supervision or are likely to harm themselves or others.

This means that people with alcohol and opioid dependence will only qualify if they have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.

Newsom estimates that about 12,000 people can receive assistance under the program. That’s not enough, said James Gallagher, the Republican leader in the state assembly.

Although it’s better than nothing, Gallagher, who like most of his Republican colleagues voted for the bill in the state legislature, the (Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment) tribunal essentially amounts to half a new bureaucratic procedure. “It’s not the groundbreaking change in policy that we need. It will help some severely mentally ill people get treatment, but it won’t stop the explosion of homeless camps in our communities.”

The program won’t start until next year, and only seven counties: Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne must establish programs by October 1, 2023. All other counties will have until December 1, 2024.

Each of California’s 58 counties will have to create special courts to handle these cases. Counties that do not participate can be fined up to $1,000 per day.

Michele Dottie said the biggest challenge for the new law will be getting adequate funding, housing and staffing to implement it “without draining the resources of the hundreds of thousands of county customers who already rely on our vital behavioral health and substance use disorder services.” Cabrera, executive director of the Association of Behavioral Health Directors of California County.

Newsom echoed those comments, saying implementation would be key. This year’s state budget includes $296.5 million for the California Health Workforce for All Program, which aims to employ 25,000 community health workers by 2025.

The California National Alliance on Mental Illness supports the proposal, as do business organizations and dozens of cities, including mayors Los AngelesSacramento, San Francisco and San Diego.

They say treatment models and antipsychotic drugs have changed dramatically since people were stocked up in institutions. Proponents say an individual should be able to thrive in the community given the right clinical support team and housing plan.

Newsom said he was “exhausted” by civil liberties groups’ arguments that the program was going too far.

“Their view is expressed by what you see on the streets and sidewalks across the state,” he said.


Ray reported from Sacramento, California.

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