Sacramento, California – Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and former Congressman Tony Coelho, co-authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), joined Disability Rights California and more than 500 people and organizations nationwide, urging the governor to change course on the CARE Court proposal.
Letter calls on Governor to implement policies that uphold human rights to housing, health care and equality by investing in infrastructure to house people living on the streets and provide comprehensive mental health services needed to achieve stabilization.
CARE Court is a forced, court-ordered treatment system that denies people with mental disorders their right to make their own decisions about their lives. This causes more harm, as studies show that forced treatment reduces the likelihood that people will seek voluntary treatment in the future.
Senator Harkin remarked, “The disability movement has pushed for years to be at the table when policy makers try to help them, using the slogan ‘Nothing about us without us.’ Governor Newsom and the State Legislature must listen to the people who are the intended beneficiaries of this policy if they want the policy to work.
Letter – dated August 11, 2022
The undersigned individuals and national organizations are collectively dedicated to advancing equity and justice for people with mental health issues, people experiencing homelessness, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color (BILPOC), and others who will be disparately affected by your proposal. Justice System for Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (“CARE”). We all share the goal of a California and an America where no one has to deal with mental health issues while living without adequate housing. But CARE Court won’t solve the complex issues of homelessness in California, or meet the needs of homeless people with mental health issues — primarily because the investment of the funds is in a new court system. Evidence shows that homeless people with mental health conditions need community-integrated, deeply affordable and accessible housing with voluntary services.
The CARE Court bill would create a new civil justice system with mechanisms to compel involuntary medical treatment and loss of autonomy and liberty in addition to the collective loss of other human and civil rights. What concerns us, because of California’s national leadership role, a harmful policy like CARE Court is likely to be replicated across the country. As Governor of California, with a highly visible national role, you have a moral imperative to lead in the protection and promotion of human and civil rights. We call on you to stop promoting CARE Court legislation and redirect your energies toward creating integrated housing solutions and voluntary, trauma-informed, evidence-based services at the scale needed to serve all California residents.
In April 2021, following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, you said, “We must continue the work to address systemic racism and the excessive use of force.1 Yet we already know that due to systemic racism in the housing, economic, medical, and law enforcement systems, CARE Court use will fall disproportionately on BILPOC and LGBTQ+ people with disabilities.2 CARE Court would pour millions into a coercive new civil court framework, while ignoring the state’s desperate need for deeply affordable housing and supportive services. Furthermore, it will only lead to the institutionalization and criminalization of those who are already isolated on the streets and will increase stigma, discrimination and the likelihood of abuse and exacerbation of the current abuse suffered by people with mental disorders. The Governor of California should not be in the business of systematically promoting bodily disempowerment, when our own state’s history demonstrates that systems like these not only ultimately fail, but cause generational damage. .3 Let your legacy as governor be one that takes active human rights and anti-racist action to reduce state-imposed violence against disabled BILPOCs without housing, not one that further integrates and perpetuates structures racists and ableists.
We know you recognize the need for leadership on bodily autonomy: just two months ago, you signed the Abortion Accessibility Act into law, with First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom pointing out: “ California will continue to lead by example and empower all women and expectant mothers. on their bodies and the ability to control their own destiny.4 Just as we know that forcing pregnant women to carry their fetuses to term has many harmful effects, evidence shows that involuntary and coercive treatment is not only ineffective, but harmful.5 We need you to lead by example again to protect the bodily autonomy of your homeless residents with mental health issues, not to create systems of oppression.
Alternatively, we urge you to implement policies that uphold the human rights to housing, health care and equality by investing in strong infrastructure to house people living on the streets and to provide comprehensive mental health services needed to achieve stabilization. Community-based and evidence-based practice shows that a combination of Housing First principles and robust treatment services is the answer to ending homelessness and promoting equitable outcomes. By investing in permanent, affordable, and accessible housing alongside voluntary treatment, you can help California lead our nation’s efforts to achieve and maintain dignity, freedom, and inclusive communities for people with disabilities.
ACLU Action in California
Affordable Housing Advocates, San Diego
Bay Area Legal Aid
Black Men Speak, Inc.
California Association of Peer-Run Mental Health Organizations
California Black Health Network
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers
California Institute of Behavioral Health Solutions
California Homeless Union State Organizing Council
California Panethnic Health Network
Calloway’s Holistic Peer Concepts
Center Legal de la Raza
Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance (MoGo)
SoCal Community Legal Aid
Supportive Housing Corporation
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance – California
California Disability Rights
Center for Elder Law and Disability Rights
Escuchen mi voz
Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, Oakland
Housing is a Human Right, Orange County
Justice2Jobs Coalition Sacramento
Silicon Valley Law Foundation
Law firm of Robert Rootenberg
Mental Health Advocacy Services
Mental Health America from California
San Francisco Mental Health Association
California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
North Valley Radical Mental Health
Grassroots Homelessness Task Force, Orange County
Public Interest Law Project
Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health Coalition
Sacramento Homeless Union
Sacramento Loaves and Fishes
Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness
Safe Dark Space
Salinas/Monterey County Homeless Union
San Diego Tenants Union
San Francisco Pre-Trial Diversion Project
San Francisco Public Defender’s Office
Stanford Sierra Youth and Families
Start Over, Inc.
Venice Justice Committee
We are not invisible
Western Center on Law and Poverty
See link for the full list of signatories.