California

Calif. lawmakers rollout Newsom’s homeless mental illness court plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest homelessness plan, which aims to force homeless residents into treatment, has finally made its way to the state legislature. 

After revealing the plan in March, the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act was introduced last week into the Senate by Sens. Thomas Umberg (D–Santa Ana) and Susan Eggman (D–Stockton). 

Umberg initially drafted Senate Bill 1338 in February under an entirely different banner. The bill was then designed to cracking down on soaring retail theft issues related to the lighter punishments enacted by Proposition 47. 

The duo amended the bill in March to leave the retail theft issues behind and transition over to Newsom’s homelessness plan before submitting the finalized version last week. 

Additionally, Asm. Richard Bloom (D – Santa Monica) introduced the companion bill (Assembly Bill 2830) last week. 

“I thank the Legislature for moving with urgency to introduce this legislation that brings us a step closer to providing vital treatment and support for Californians struggling with severe schizophrenia spectrum and psychotic disorders,” Newsom said in a statement. 

“Sadly, the status quo provides support only after a criminal justice intervention or conservatorship. CARE Court is a paradigm shift, providing a new pathway for seriously ill individuals before they end up cycling through prison, emergency rooms, or homeless encampments.” 

Center to the CARE Act is the proposal to allow a select group of people to make a request to a civil court to create a plan and provide services for individuals who have schizophrenia or a psychotic disorder and are unable to make decisions for themselves. 

Services that the court could order include behavioral health treatment, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, psychoeducation, stabilization medications and a housing plan. 

The following groups of people are allowed to file a petition for another person (respondent) with schizophrenia or psychotic disorders, per the CARE Act: 

  • Adults who live with the respondent
  • A spouse, parent, sibling or adult child of the respondent
  • The hospital director where the respondent is hospitalized
  • The director of a public or charitable organization, agency or home where the respondent is currently receiving behavioral health services from
  • A qualified behavioral health professional who is treating the respondent for a mental illness
  • First responders
  • Public guardians or conservator
  • The director of a county behavioral health agency

“Over the past month, my Administration has traveled throughout the state meeting with impacted Californians and their loved ones, behavioral health experts, services providers, local officials and others to help shape the CARE Court framework,” Newsom said. 

“Passing this legislation in a timely manner is incredibly important to help those in desperate need of services receive the support they deserve. I look forward to our continued partnership with the Legislature and stakeholders to make CARE Court a reality in communities across California.” 

SB 1338 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.