Newsom’s mental health CARE Court kicks off in seven counties

Hoping fast-track mental health care, particularly for homeless, without the high barriers of traditional conservatorship, California starts its new legal route – the CARE Court.

California has implemented a new mental health court program called “CARE Court” to address the homelessness crisis in the state.

The program aims to fast-track individuals with untreated schizophrenia and related disorders into housing and medical care, even without their consent.


Driving the news: The court allows family members and first responders to file a petition on behalf of an adult they believe is in need of supervision and experiencing rapid deterioration of their condition.

  • To be eligible for the program, individuals must have a diagnosis on the schizophrenia spectrum or other qualifying disorders like psychotic disorders.
  • Severe depression, bipolar disorder, and addiction alone do not meet the eligibility criteria.
  • The court will review each petition, and if deemed eligible, the individual will work with the county on a voluntary plan that includes housing, medication, counseling, and social services.
  • The agreement will be in effect for up to a year, with the possibility of extension for another year.
  • If an individual refuses to participate in the program or does not follow the agreement, the court may dismiss the proceedings.

The backstory: Critics of the new process express concerns that vulnerable people may be forced into treatment. While emergency shelters have been allocated funding, there is a shortage of case managers, appropriate in-patient treatment facilities, and supportive housing.

  • San Francisco officials state that around 10 percent of available beds are open for new people.
  • Opponents argue that the state should have invested in more housing and existing services rather than establishing a new court system.
  • The program’s implementation covers seven California counties, including San Francisco, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Glenn.
  • Los Angeles County plans to initiate the program on December 1st.
  • The estimated number of eligible individuals in these counties ranges from 1,800 to 3,100, with Los Angeles potentially reaching up to 3,600 to 6,200.
  • The rest of the state has until December 2024 to establish mental health courts.
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