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Newsom proposes forced treatment for people with severe mental illness

California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to make it easier to force people with severe mental illness into long-term treatment. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says the mayor of San Diego is on board.

California's governor proposed a plan on Thursday to force people with severe mental health and addiction disorders into treatment.

The proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, would require all counties in California to set up a mental health branch in civil court to assist people in need of help but who won't accept services.

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The state would require counties to provide comprehensive treatment to those suffering from debilitating psychosis and people would be obligated to accept the care. Newsom said the state would also step up its funding so local governments are not left with the bill.

"If the budget's approved this year, we will have support specifically for 33,000 ... clinically supported new beds and placements," Newsom said.

Newsom proposes forced treatment for people with severe mental illness

Some mental health experts have objected to forced care as an erosion of civil liberties. Newsom said patients who end up in his proposed "care courts" would have a public defender and a peer supporter to advocate for them, and that any treatment plan would be carefully supervised by the court.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who has been pushing for changes to state conservatorship laws, said the status quo is unacceptable.


"For far too long, government at every level has allowed individuals who struggle with mental illness and addiction to language untreated on our streets, cycling between our jails and emergency rooms with little hope of ever getting the care that they truly and desperately need," Gloria said.

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Newsom hopes the proposal can win approval from California lawmakers by June, with a rollout targeted for January.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly called the plan the "beginning of a conversation about how we address one of the most important problems in California.”

He said the effort is to address what “for many of us is one of the most heartbreaking, heart-wrenching” challenges, and “that is how do we serve the needs of individuals who are the sickest of the sick?"

“It’s about a new pathway,” Ghaly said. “It’s about a paradigm shift.”

Ghaly said he expects the program could apply to 7,000 to 12,000 people in California, although not all have to be homeless.