California Governor Gavin Newsom put forward a plan on Thursday to compel homeless people with acute mental illness and/or addiction to accept treatment.
The plan, which would require legislative agreement, would require all counties in the state to create a mental health branch in civil court dedicated to assisting people who are in need of help but won’t consent to services on their own, essentially forcing them to accept care.
With CARE Courts (CARE stands for Community Assistance, Recovery, and empowerment), the civil courts created in every California county would allow civil proceedings against people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia or psychotic disorders to be initiated by individuals such as family members, first responders, outreach workers, and others. All in all, it would result in up to two years of court-monitored services for the individual.
“CA is taking a major step forward to support mental health and fight homelessness,” Newsom tweeted Thursday after unveiling the proposal. “CARE Court is a better way of getting people the mental help they need. It’s court-ordered services, drug treatment, and housing with compassion. This is big.”
The plan could cover 7,000 to 12,000 people, and not all would have to be homeless.
“We need to stop trying to fix a failed system,” said Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Stephen V. Manley. “We are rapidly moving back to where we were 100 years ago in using incarceration as the only alternative for those persons who are severely mentally ill. We need new ideas and a fresh approach and Governor Newsom is offering us one.”
California has among the highest homeless numbers in the nation. As of January 2020, California had an estimated 161,548 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
This proposal comes on the heels of Newsom’s more robust spending for homelessness; he allocated $12 billion for the homeless in last year’s state budget and proposed $2 billion in his January financial plan.
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