LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that he would “wholeheartedly embrace” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s CARE Court proposal, a policy framework to force people living with severe, untreated mental health and substance abuse challenges into court-ordered treatment.
“Yesterday, I woke up as too many Californians do, with somebody screaming outside my house, experiencing a mental health crisis. (He) woke me up, and as I got dressed to go talk to him, he ran off before I could get there. Driving into City Hall, I saw a man sitting on the bench outside our beautiful Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, across from our county buildings, sitting there yelling at imaginary folks that he saw in the space around him. And just a few blocks later, across from our City Hall, I saw a woman walk into traffic muttering to herself,” Garcetti said Friday during a virtual news conference from the California Big City Mayors.
“We see trauma all around us. This is unacceptable in our world, let alone in our state and our cities.”
Garcetti said he embraces Newsom’s CARE — Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment — Court proposal, saying it would be a critical tool for California and would address a gap in the current system.
He added that as California increases its housing options for people experiencing homelessness, “We know that many of our neighbors are not ready for temporary or even permanent supportive housing.”
The CARE Court proposal, which needs to be drafted into a bill and approved by the legislature, would provide a tool for local governments to help people with psychotic episodes gain access to behavioral health services and housing through a court-ordered care plan for up to 24 months, the governor said in his announcement Thursday.
“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-use disorders,” 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.”
Under the new framework, the courts would require counties to provide the services for individuals deemed eligible. Plans would be managed by a community-based care team to ensure program participants avail themselves of needed mental health care, supportive services, medication and housing. In addition to this team, individuals in CARE Court would have a public defender and care manager to help them make self-directed care decisions.
The CARE Court is intended to be less restrictive than conservatorships and its proponents believe it could apply to a broader population of people experiencing homelessness.
The Care Plan could be ordered for up to 12 months, with periodic review hearings and subsequent renewal for up to an additional year. However, participants who do not successfully complete Care Plans may be hospitalized or referred to conservatorship.
Counties across the state will participate in CARE Court under Newsom’s proposal. Local governments that do not carry out their specified duties under court-ordered Care Plans could be sanctioned by courts or have an agent appointed to ensure services are provided.