New mental health law to be delayed in Kern Co., majority of state

California is looking to revamp how involuntary mental health holds – 5150s – are handled.

A majority of counties in California are delaying the launch of a new mental health bill aimed at changing involuntary treatment procedures. 

Locally in the Central Valley, Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services revealed that Kern County will not be implementing the law in the near future. 


The backstory: The law, Senate Bill 43, expands the state’s conservatorship law and rules for involuntary mental health holds, broadening the legal definition of “gravely disabled.”

  • SB 43 allows conservatorships if a mental illness or substance use disorder places a person’s physical or mental health at substantial risk of serious harm.
  • The law aims to address the mounting homelessness and mental illness crisis exacerbated by illicit drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 43 in October. 

The big picture: Alison Burrowes, Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services interim director, told Bakersfield officials during a meeting last week that the county is not ready to move forward with SB 43. 

  • According to Burrowes, 45 of California’s 58 counties expect to postpone implementation of SB 43. 
  • Concerns exist that expanding the number of people deemed gravely disabled without the appropriate infrastructure in place may result in increased 5150 holds, especially among unhoused residents.
  • San Francisco is the only known county ready to implement the new law, though it is unclear how they have managed without the necessary designations and resources.
  • Bakersfield Ward 2 Councilman Andrae Gonzales recommended a phased approach to implementation to expedite the process and address the public need sooner.
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