California's big city mayors applaud Newsom for signing conservatorship bill
Mayor Todd Gloria and other state elected leaders on Tuesday applauded Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing Senate Bill 43, which is intended to modernize California's mental health conservatorship laws.
"With today's signing of Senate Bill 43, Gov. Gavin Newsom once again demonstrated his steadfast commitment to meaningfully addressing California's mental health and addiction crises," Gloria said. "SB 43 will help us reach a small, but very visible, segment of our homeless population who up until now have been allowed to languish on the streets, often dying alone and forgotten by society. SB 43 will save lives."
Under the previous law, mental health conservatorships can be used only when a person is a danger to themselves or others, or cannot provide for their food, shelter or clothing.
SB 43 — which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024, expands eligibility for conservatorship to situations where people cannot manage their medical care or personal safety. It also adds substance-use disorders in addition to mental illness as an applicable condition, according to Gloria's office.
"California is undertaking a major overhaul of our mental health system," Newsom said. "The mental health crisis affects us all, and people who need the most help have been too often overlooked. We are working to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and that people get the help they need and the respect they deserve."
The California Big City Mayors, a coalition of mayors from the state's 13 largest cities, supported the signing of the bill.
"It is inhumane to leave those who are profoundly mentally ill and unable to speak for themselves on our streets," Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said. "In order to confront the homelessness crisis with the urgency required, we must address housing as well as the behavioral health crisis at the same time."
The signing of the bill, authored by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, D- Stockton, comes on the heels of last year's passage of CARE Court, which is intended to assist people living with untreated mental health and substance- abuse challenges. CARE Court — also known as the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Act — went into effect in San Diego County and six other California counties on Oct. 1.
Under the CARE Act, a petition for a person with mental health disorders can be submitted by a family member, someone who resides with the person, social services, first responders, community organizations or law enforcement. A judge will then decide whether that person is eligible for treatment — with input from the county's Behavioral Health Services. If so, a CARE plan will be developed.
The county expects to spend between $15 million and $20 million the first year for about 1,000 people to be considered. About a quarter of the people engaged are estimated to qualify and transition to confirmed cases, with others guided toward previously existing behavioral health programs, a county statement read.
The plan, while nominally voluntary, could include behavioral health treatment, stabilization medication and a housing plan.
However, if someone refuses treatment, a judge could also recommend they be placed into what would in essence be a conservatorship, which would force them to receive treatment.
According to county officials, participation in the program can be no longer than one year unless extended due to individual circumstances — up to a total of two years — and includes periodic hearings to report on progress.
The program is offered at no cost to its participants.