Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled Thursday a new plan he said would help get mental health and substance abuse treatment resources to more vulnerable populations in California.
Dubbed CARE Court (Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment), the idea is to get a person with an untreated mental health illness or substance use issue into a court-ordered “Care Plan” that can last one to two years.
Pending approval by the legislature, all counties would be required to “provide comprehensive treatment to the most severely impaired and untreated Californians” through the CARE Court with accountability measures in place, according to the Governor’s Office. These plans could include interventions and supportive services, such as housing and medication.
“CARE Court is about meeting people where they are and acting with compassion to support the thousands of Californians living on our streets with severe mental health and substance abuse use disorders,” Gov. Newsom said. “We are taking action to break the pattern that leaves people without hope and cycling repeatedly through homelessness and incarceration. This is a new approach to stabilize people with the hardest-to-treat behavioral health conditions.”
Gov. Newsom announced the proposal at a mental health treatment facility in San Jose Thursday.
Individuals could be put into the system upon referral by behavioral health providers, family, first responders or social service workers. Patients could include those recently arrested or leaving a short-term involuntary hospital hold.
“CARE Court is designed on the evidence that many people can stabilize, begin healing and exit homelessness in less restrictive, community-based care settings,” a fact sheet about the program said. “It’s a long-term strategy to positively impact the individual in care and the community around them. The plan focuses on people with schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, who may also have substance use challenges, and who lack medical decision-making capacity and advances an upstream diversion from more restrictive conservatorships or incarceration.”
The proposal is part of the governor’s effort to cut back on homelessness throughout the state.
Last month, Gov. Newsom unveiled more than $1 billion in new funding for mental health treatment and housing options to help individuals experiencing homelessness. The funding is part of his $14 billion package to combat homelessness.
As of January, the governor had earmarked more than $60 million for housing projects for unhoused people in Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Kern counties.
“We need to stop trying to fix a failed system,” Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Stephen V. Manley said in a statement Thursday regarding the CARE Court plan. “We are rapidly moving back to where we were 100 years ago in using incarceration as the only alternative for those persons who are severely mentally ill. We need new ideas and a fresh approach, and Gov. Newsom is offering us one.”
Counties that do not fully participate in the CARE Court plan could face sanctions, according to the Governor’s Office.
And individuals who could not successfully complete a Care Plan could be put into conservatorship.