According to this publication by the state of California, the following describes Governor Newson’s new plan to get Californians in crisis off the streets and into housing, treatment, and care – but if you’re only going to read one bullet point, skip to the last…

● Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court is a new framework to get
people with mental health and substance use disorders the support and care they need.
● CARE Court is aimed at helping the thousands of Californians who are suffering from untreated
mental health and substance use disorders leading to homelessness, incarceration or worse.
● California is taking a new approach to act early and get people the support they need and address
underlying needs – and they claim the plan is going to do it without taking away people’s rights.
● The governor claims CARE Court includes accountability for the individual and for local governments in the form of court ordered for services.

Notice that they saved court ordered services for last. This is because of the implications of the legislation that established the Court, the CARE Act.

The CARE Act includes requirements for an alternative to traditional court proceedings known as CARE courts. They are designed to provide a comprehensive approach to addressing addiction and mental health issues by offering treatment, counseling, and support services in addition to legal oversight. Ideally, they operate through a team-based approach that includes judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment providers, and probation officers who work together to support participants throughout the program. CARE Courts can also take on different forms, including drug courts, mental health courts, veteran courts, and collaborative courts that address a combination of substance abuse and mental health issues. They are available in many, but not all, counties throughout California, and eligibility for participation varies depending on the court’s specific criteria.

While California CARE Courts have been praised for their effectiveness in reducing recidivism rates and promoting recovery, there have also been some criticisms of these specialized courts. In “Why California’s much-touted CARE Court is ‘no one-and-done program’” reports:

“[M]ental health directors advise against setting expectations too high. They point to the logistical and financial challenges of launching a labor-intensive program from scratch, as well as the limiting effect of a decades-old law already on the books governing the treatment of mentally ill people in California.”

The outdated policy is associated with “[t]he state’s history of incarcerating mentally ill people in asylums through the 1960s that still casts a long shadow from when it institutionalized up to 37,000 people in the mid-1950s, many of them indigent, vagrant, and hypermarginalized.

Despite sweeping claims, the CARE Act — like other attempts to legislate treatment for severe mental illness — is constrained by the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which was passed in 1967 as the state began closing down many of its state mental facilities after decades of neglect and abuse of patients.

LPS — as it is known — defined how far the state can go toward forcing someone to be hospitalized and to take psychiatric medication. In an attempt to balance the need for treatment and respect for autonomy, it established criteria for conservatorship either by a family member or a public guardian.”

The article says more about the mixed legacy of LPS, and explains why Disability Rights California (DRC) opposes the CARE Act. DRC “argues that the legislation ‘is based on stigma and stereotypes of people living with mental health disabilities and experiencing homelessness and will disproportionately impact Black Californians … furthering institutional racism.”

Click here for the Disability Rights California Information on the CARE Act.

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