CA Newsom wants $ 65 million for CARE Court homeless plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is prepared to invest significant state funds in his ambitious mental health courts plan – $ 65 million this year and $ 50 million annually for years to come.

Newsom has been pitching his Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court, or CARE Court, proposal since March. But his May budget revision on Friday was the first time he put a dollar amount on it.

The governor’s plan would create civil mental health courts in each of California’s 58 counties to compel behavioral health care for people with serious untreated mental illnesses. Specifically, it would target those living with illnesses on the schizophrenia spectrum or with other psychotic disorders who aren’t receiving treatment and who lack medical decision-making capacity.

Dream. Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, and Sen. Thomas Umberg, D-Santa Ana, are carrying the CARE Court legislation, Senate Bill 1338. It’s due for a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on May 16.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom helps clean a homeless encampment alongside a San Diego freeway in January. Newsom is calling for $ 65 million to fund his CARE Court plan, which would create mental health courts to order treatment for people with severe untreated mental illness. Gregory Bull AP

CARE Court budget items

Newsom’s budget would establish a $ 10 million program for supporters to help mentally ill individuals 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 after that for the Department of Health Care Services to provide training and technical assistance to counties, as well as data collection and evaluation.

In addition, the Judicial Branch would receive $ 39.5 million this year and $ 37.7 million in ongoing money to conduct CARE Court hearings and set up a self-help center.

Newsom’s office estimates that up to 12,000 people would qualify for CARE Court. The governor has championed the program as a strategy to alleviate homelessness.

“There’s no compassion stepping over people in the streets and sidewalks,” Newsom said in March when he unveiled the idea. “No compassion reading about someone losing their life under (Interstate) 280 in an encampment. There’s no compassion in that. I mean, we could hold hands, have a candlelight vigil, talk about the way the world should be. Or we can take some damn responsibility to implement our ideals, and that’s what we’re doing differently here. ”

Tents line the sidewalk of Cooper Way, a residential street off Fulton Avenue in Arden Arcade in April 2021. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to create a system of mental health CARE Courts that he says would help homeless people suffering from untreated schizophrenia or pyschosis. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Sacramento Bee file

CARE Court funding reactions

Newsom also touted the state’s “unprecedented support” for mental healthcare, including $ 11.6 billion in behavioral health funding, and $ 4.5 billion for beds in mental health facilities.

“That’s a big part of this story, but we also realize we have 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 on Friday pointed to the 33,000 housing units for people with “complex behavioral health needs” he intends to create using $ 2 billion he set aside in his January budget.

Even so, some advocates are still skeptical of CARE Courtor continue to oppose the program outright.

Disability Rights California – which sees mental health courts as forcing treatment – said Friday that CARE Court will “do more harm because studies show forced treatment lessens the likelihood of people seeking voluntary treatment in the future.”

“A far wiser investment for California would be to look at evidence-based best practices and use these funds to commit long term to persistent community engagement, affordable housing, and a robust menu of well-staffed voluntary services,” the organization said in a statement. “Services that actually empower people living with mental health disabilities on their paths to recovery and allow them to retain full autonomy over their lives without the intrusion of a court.”

Housing The Homeless
Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to create a system of mental health CARE Courts that he says would help homeless people suffering from untreated schizophrenia or pyschosis. Richard Vogel Associated Press file

The California State Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians, and Public Conservators issued a statement expressing “deep dismay” Newsom’s budget did not include money for public guardians and conservators.

“Public Guardians and Conservators greatly appreciate Governor Newsom’s attention to the pressing concern of the overlapping mental health and homelessness crises, yet we are gravely disappointed to see that the May Revision ignores the reality that our services supporting these extremely vulnerable Californians are on the brink of collapse, ”the statement said.

The County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California – which previously shared concerns about funding CARE Court locally – expressed relief the governor intends to provide more money to implement the program.

“County behavioral health agencies are at the core 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 heartened to see the acknowledgment that more work needs to be done to address the county funding aspects of CARE Court as there will be no winners in CARE Court if the state does not fund our expanded duties and provide expanded housing resources for this new program, ”she added.

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Lindsey Holden covers the California Legislature for the Sacramento Bee. She previously reported on housing and local government for the San Luis Obispo Tribune, the Bee’s sister paper. Lindsey started her career at the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. She’s a native Californian in midwest, where she earned degrees from DePaul and Northwestern universities.


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