California’s Mental Illness, Homelessness Court Program Takes Effect Next Week

 California’s new court-ordered treatment program goes into effect next week, a significant attempt by the state to get a handle on California’s addiction, mental illness, and homelessness crises.

The Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act program allows families of adults suffering from a serious untreated psychotic disorder to file a petition in civil court for court-ordered voluntary treatment. Clinicians, first responders, and others can also file a petition.

If the petition is approved, a judge can order a year-long care plan, which can be renewed for a second year. The person will be connected with a treatment team, as well as a housing plan.

“Although homelessness has many faces in California, among the most tragic is the face of the sickest who suffer from treatable mental health conditions,” the California Health and Human Services Agency says on its website.

The program targets the most severely mentally ill among California’s vast homeless population, many of whom also have substance abuse issues. It does not apply to mental illnesses like anxiety disorders, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, the court can order medication, but program participants cannot be forced to take it.

California has about 170,000 homeless people, the biggest homeless population in the country, according to a report last year from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Nearly a third of the country’s homeless people live in California, according to a June statewide study from a research group at the University of California, San Francisco.

Some California cities have particularly dire homeless problems and have struggled to find long-term solutions to curb the problem.

San Francisco has been in the throes of a homelessness crisis for years now, and it has only gotten worse since before the pandemic. About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night, up 35% since 2019.


Last week, Sacramento’s top prosecutor sued the city over its homeless encampments, accusing city officials of allowing the homeless population to become a public nuisance.

Under the CARE court program, a petition for treatment must also include an affidavit from a licensed mental health professional saying they at least tried to examine the person multiple times recently, or the petitioner must submit evidence the person was detained for at least two periods of intensive treatments.

Seven counties including San Francisco, San Diego, and Orange must launch pilot programs by October 1. The rest of California’s counties must launch their CARE Court programs by the end of next year.

Counties will receive state funding for the program, including for new housing units, treatment, and behavioral health services.

Governor Gavin Newsom (D) has touted the plan as a way to help homeless Californians get treatment instead of being incarcerated or involuntarily hospitalized.

“CARE Court means new hope for thousands of Californians with untreated mental health and substance abuse issues,” Newsom said in December.

“While we watch other places in America move swiftly towards more involuntary hospitalization, in California, we’re doing it the right way – community based care, a focus on housing, and accountability for everyone involved,” the governor said.

The program takes effect on October 1.

California’s Mental Illness, Homelessness Court Program Takes Effect Next Week California’s Mental Illness, Homelessness Court Program Takes Effect Next Week Reviewed by Your Destination on September 28, 2023 Rating: 5

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