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Newsom Wants To Compel Treatment For Those With Severe Mental Health Issues

Governor Gavin Newsom Holds Press Conference For Official Reopening Of The State Of California At Universal Studios Hollywood
Gov. Gavin Newsom.
(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
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Getty Images North America)
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Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing a way to compel treatment in the most severe mental health cases.

Newsom calls it "CARE court," an alternative to conservatorship and the criminal courts. The goal would be to provide treatment for people suffering from extreme, untreated psychotic illness or substance abuse and who cannot care for themselves.

The governor said what's happening to very sick people in the state is unacceptable.

"There's no compassion stepping over people in the streets and sidewalks," he said. "There's no compassion reading about someone losing their life under [Interstate] 280, in an encampment ... We could hold hands, have a candlelight vigil, talk about the way the world should be, or we could take some damn responsibility to implement our ideals."

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Under Newsom's proposal, individuals could be referred to CARE Court by family, a first responder, or law enforcement, and counties would be required to provide treatment or face possible sanctions.

A court-ordered treatment plan could include medications, therapy and other supportive services such as housing.

Those who didn't complete the program could be hospitalized, sent to criminal court or get referred for conservatorship.

The plan must win the state legislature's approval. Details such as how much the initiative would cost are yet to be worked out.

It could run into opposition from some advocates for those with mental health problems, who oppose compulsory treatment.

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Kimberly McCoy Wade, the governor's senior advisor on Aging, Disability, and Alzheimer's said once participants are stable, they would have a say in their own care plan.

"If there are future crises and need for more intervention, we've already had that conversation," Wade said. "We have that recorded. We have the preferences and can partner with the person to provide that self-directed care which is essential to their health stability and even staying alive."

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly Mitchell welcomed the governor's initiative, noting that Redondo Beach has carried out a similar program in Homelessness Court.

"Under the Governor's CARE Court program, L.A. County can expand this people-centered model of prevention and support for our most vulnerable unhoused neighbors," Mitchell said.

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