California Governor Gavin Newsom is ready to invest significant public funds in his ambitious plan for mental health courts — $65 million this year and $50 million a year for years to come.
Newsom has been presenting his proposed Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court, or CARE Court, since March. But his May budget revision on Friday was the first time he put a dollar amount in it.
The governor’s plan would create civil mental health courts in each of California’s 58 counties to impose behavioral health care on people with serious, untreated mental illnesses. Specifically, it would target people living with schizophrenia spectrum illnesses or other psychotic disorders who are not receiving treatment and lack the ability to make medical decisions.
Sen. Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, and Sen. Thomas Umberg, D-Santa Ana, bring the CARE Court legislation, Senate Bill 1338. It is due to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 16.
CARE Court Line Items
Newsom’s budget would establish a $10 million supporter program to help people with mental illness navigate CARE Court. The Department of Aging that would administer the effort.
It would also set aside $15.2 million this year and about $1 million annually thereafter for the Department of Health Services to provide training and technical assistance to counties, as well as data collection and evaluation. Datas.
In addition, the judiciary would receive $39.5 million this year and $37.7 million in ongoing funding to conduct CARE court hearings and set up a self-help center.
Newsom’s office estimates that up to 12,000 people would be eligible for CARE Court. The governor championed the program as a strategy to reduce homelessness.
“There’s no compassion stepping over people on the streets and sidewalks,” Newsom said in March when he unveiled the idea. “No sympathy reading about someone who lost their life under (Interstate) 280 in an encampment. There is no compassion there. I mean, we could hold hands, have a candlelight vigil, talk about how the world should be. Or we can take on the sacred responsibility of implementing our ideals, and that’s what we do differently here.
CARE Court Funding Reactions
Newsom also touted the state’s “unprecedented support” for mental health care, including $11.6 billion in funding for behavioral health and $4.5 billion for beds in health care facilities. mental.
“That’s a big part of that story, but we also realize we need to do more,” he said.
When asked how the state would house homeless people enrolled in the CARE Court program — a concern for homeless and disability rights advocates — Newsom pointed Friday to the 33,000 housing units for people with disabilities. “complex behavioral health needs” that it intends to create using $2 billion that it set aside in its January budget.
Even so, some advocates are still skeptical of CARE Court or continue to oppose the program outright.
Disability Rights California – which considers mental health courts to coerce treatment – said Friday that CARE Court “will do more harm because studies show coerced treatment reduces the likelihood that people will seek voluntary treatment at home.” ‘coming “.
“A much wiser investment for California would be to look at evidence-based best practices and use those funds to make a long-term commitment to persistent community engagement, affordable housing, and a robust menu of well-received volunteer services. staffed,” the organization said in a statement. “Services that allow people living with mental disorders to recover and enable them to maintain complete autonomy in their lives without the intrusion of a court.”
The Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians, and Public Conservators of the State of California released a statement expressing “deep dismay”. Newsom’s budget did not include money for public guardians and curators.
“Public guardians and conservatives greatly appreciate Governor Newsom’s attention to the pressing concern of overlapping mental health and homelessness crises, but we are gravely disappointed that the May review ignores the reality that our services supporting these extremely vulnerable Californians are on the verge of collapse,” the statement read.
The County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California – which previously shared concerns about local funding for CARE Court – expressed relief that the governor intends to provide more money to implement the program.
“County behavioral health agencies are at the heart of two of the state’s biggest priorities: homelessness and the youth mental health crisis,” said Michelle Doty Cabrera, executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association. of California.
“We are encouraged to see that more needs to be done to address the funding aspects of CARE Court County as there will be no winners at CARE Court if the state does not fund our expanded functions and provide expanded housing resources for this new program,” she added.