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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

California Governor: Lower Bar For Forced Mental Health Care

 February 19, 2020 at 10:13 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 This morning broadcast live here on KPBS AFM governor Gavin Newsome delivered his state of the state address to legislators in Sacramento and in a surprising move, Newsome decided today they dedicate the entire address to the state's homelessness problem. Here's Newsome number one. We will reduce street homelessness quickly and humanely through emergency actions. We will be laser focused on getting the mentally ill out of tents and into treatment. We will provide stable funding to get sustainable results and we will tackle the underproduction of affordable housing in California. And we will do all of this. We'll do all of this with real accountability and real consequences. Speaker 2: 00:48 Joining me is professor Thad Kaos, chair of the political science department at UC San Diego and Thad. Welcome to the program. Always great to talk California politics with you, Maureen. Well, how unusual was this that an entire state of the state speech on one topic? It was unusual for any governor, but especially for this governor. So politicians love to use a state of the state address to talk about everything that they've done and everything that they're going to do, their laundry lists. So looking back over a hundred years, it stated the States in California, I've seen sometimes governors proposed upwards of a hundred different policy proposals. Last year, Gavin Newsome 2019 talked in his first minute of his state of the state about rail, water, energy protecting migrants, protecting seniors as well as homelessness. This speech was all on one issue. So I think what he's doing is both responding to a critique that he's, uh, been the attention deficit governor and, and, and spread himself too thin by, by working on too many issues at once. Speaker 2: 01:51 And also have this, as he said, a laser focus on the single issue, which is now the most important issue to voters in California. Okay. Is that the reason you think that the governor may have chosen to do this polls show it is homelessness is the greatest concern of California voters? Is there also a Donald Trump factor? Yes. President Trump, who's here in California, has been attacking California and saying, look, Democrats hold this up as a California dream, but look at this nightmare of, of the blight of homelessness on, you know, on the beautiful cities in his, in his language in California. I think Gavin Newsome wants Democrats to take accountability for this issue in any really spoke of this in, in moral terms saying that the, the richest state in the richest nation needs to address this and be held accountable. So in many ways, he's taking up the call, the challenge that president Trump, uh, has, has issued and, and focusing on an issue that, that to be, to give, to be fair, Kevin Newsome has been focused on throughout his entire political career. Now, much of this speech seemed to be a not so subtle warning to local governments that they have to develop and housing Speaker 1: 03:00 policies and stop dragging their feet. Speaker 2: 03:04 Yeah. So this is a former mayor, uh, talking tough to mayors, uh, and, and talking about what the state might do if local governments squander, uh, the political opportunity created by, uh, by the attention to, to homelessness. Right now, and also don't use effectively the millions and potentially billions of dollars being sent by the state to cities and counties to address homelessness. Uh, but that's picking a tough fight that has sidelined some important legislation in the California legislature this year. The most controversial bill has been one that's taken away from cities and counties. The ability to control the zoning around public transit cities and counties fought back against that bill and it's killed it while the governor stayed on the sidelines. He seemed to endorse in concept that bill, but said nothing about this particular legislation. So I think a lot of people are going to be figuring, trying to figure out where does he stand. Does he stand with cities where he was a mayor or does he stand, uh, with this issue? Speaker 1: 04:04 That's professor Thad cow's or chair of the political science department at UC San Diego. I want to bring in Amy goneyou, chief operating officer at the alpha project, a nonprofit homeless service provider here in San Diego. And Amy, welcome. Thank you. Do you see the governor's new proposals on homelessness working well with what San Diego is already trying to do? Speaker 3: 04:27 I do and it's great to hear it to be honest with you. I'm be optimistic that, you know, get results from it. Um, here in San Diego and all across the state, I think, you know, a lot of people have the same issues is the affordable housing component. Um, and we like to call it low income housing because affordable housing here is anywhere from $1,700 to $2,400. Well, when you're working with seniors that are homeless that make $800 a month in social security, what are they supposed to do? You know? So yes. Cutting red tape, building more permanent supportive housing, dealing so happy that he's been speaking up about the serious mental illness that's going on because that's part of the population that we just don't have facilities. Not all project communities don't have facilities to handle those types of high level needs. Speaker 1: 05:18 Right. You know, the governor made this new announcement about addressing behavioral health. Here's a clip from the speech Speaker 4: 05:25 this year. We have proposed calling. It's a once in a lifetime reform of our medical system based on the obvious long ignored principle that physical health and brain health are inextricably linked. After all, after all 10 million Californians, one in four suffer from some type of behavioral health condition. Speaker 1: 05:47 And the governor also said quote, doctors should be able to write prescriptions for housing the same way they do for insulin or antibiotics. Amy, I'd like to get your reaction that, Speaker 3: 05:58 I mean we need something put in place because we can't force people off the streets because there's that mentally ill. So I mean anything to help enforce getting the help they need, uh, we would be supportive of. Speaker 1: 06:10 What are your feelings about this focus by the governor giving new energy to the effort to find solutions to homelessness. Do you have any optimism about that? Speaker 3: 06:20 I w I'm optimistic in general. I mean because it is a crisis. I'm here in San Diego. We've been proactive in terms of putting up some, what we call bridge shelters, which we feel are needed in order to get people acclimated from being off the streets, get them the documents they need to rent apartments, help them search for places that they can afford, um, and basically what we call it, detox off the streets. And that's just getting used to being on the streets for 20 years and getting the services that they need to become stable enough to live independently. Speaker 1: 06:53 I've been speaking with Amy Gunn, new chief operating officer at the alpha project and also with professor Thad cow's chair of the political science department at UC San Diego. Thank you both. Thank you very much. And finally, in response to the governor's address assembly Republican leader, Mary Waldron, that is Marie Waldron of Escondido said the governor is right that building more housing is needed. Unfortunately, democratic policies have stood in the way of housing production for years that needs to change. We'll have more on the governor's state of the state speech all through the day here on KPBS.

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California's governor says the state should lower the legal bar for providing forced treatment to the mentally ill and building more homeless shelters. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday took the unusual step of devoting most of his second State of the State address to the intertwined issues of homelessness and housing.
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