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Newsom’s Controversial CARE Court Plan To Compel Mental Health Treatment Is One Step Away From Becoming Law

California Governor Gavin Newsom stands at a podium to deliver comments about the CARE Court proposal. He wears a blue suit and tie. A sign language interpreter stands next to him to deliver the message with sign language.
Gov. Newsom gives comments in March 2022, when the first details of the CARE Court proposal were released.
(YouTube screenshot )
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Under CARE Court, people living with a serious, untreated mental illness could be referred for a court-ordered care plan that lasts up to two years.

A family member, county behavioral health worker or even first responder could petition a judge to get the ball rolling.

If the care plan fails, the person could be hospitalized or referred to a conservatorship. That might mean forced treatment and a stripping of individual rights, according to opponents.

Dozens of civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, signed a letter opposing CARE Court, saying it’s too coercive and would mean a severe setback for the rights of people living with mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

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But the measure was much less controversial in the state legislature, where it got bipartisan support and cleared the senate with a unanimous vote on Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday, Newsom called the plan a “paradigm shift” that would provide care for the sickest Californians who often languish in locked institutions or jails.

“Today’s passage of the CARE Act means hope for thousands of Californians suffering from severe forms of mental illness who too often languish on our streets without the treatment they desperately need and deserve,” Newsom said in an emailed statement.

Many family members of people living with serious mental illness who are frustrated with the lack of options for getting their loved ones life-saving treatment have applauded the bill’s passage.

Groups including Disability Rights California and Sacramento’s Mental Health First continue to voice firm opposition to CARE Court, arguing it’s not the right course for California.

“Newsom's CARE Court legislation dishonestly uses words like ‘voluntary’ and ‘graduation,’ when, in fact, what we are talking about is coercion and intimidation. It is disturbingly obvious that the real function of this bill is to further embed the judicial system and the prison industrial complex inside of our health care system,” said Asantewaa Boykin, co-founder of Mental Health First, in an emailed statement.

Governor Newsom has until the end of the month to sign the bill into law.

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.