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California’s new mental health court sees over 100 petitions in 2 months

Alternative mental health courts that force treatment for people with severe mental illnesses have received more than 100 petitions since they began in seven California counties in October, state officials announced Friday.

The state believes between 7,000 and 12,000 people will eventually be eligible for CARE Courts across the state, with Los Angeles County becoming the latest and largest county to launch the program on Friday. It was started on a limited basis before the

“This is exactly where we want to be,” said Dr. Mark Ghaley, California Health and Human Services Secretary.

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Gurley told reporters he was optimistic about the early results and said the number of referrals reflects the small population served so far. Only people who are 18 years of age or older and suffer from schizophrenia or a related disorder are eligible. Severe depression, bipolar disorder, and addiction are not covered by themselves.

“We’re in a good place. We’re giving our local partners time to build their capacity to manage referrals and making sure they’re doing the best they can,” Gurley said at a press conference Friday. We are confirming that.” “In many ways, you can see the snowball growing little by little.”

The civil court process, created by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, is part of a larger effort to address California’s homelessness crisis. The system allows family members and first responders to petition on behalf of adults whose condition is rapidly deteriorating and who are considered “unlikely to survive safely” without supervision. Adults can also apply if they need services or support to prevent recurrence or worsening of symptoms that are likely to cause “severe disability or serious harm” to themselves or others.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Sacramento, California. (AP Photo/Ricci Pedroncelli)

Each county’s special civil court reviews each petition to determine eligibility before requiring the individual to participate in a voluntary plan that includes housing, medication, counseling, and other social services. According to the law, if all parties cannot agree on a voluntary plan, the court will order the plan to be undertaken. Some of the ongoing petitions have entered the court process and are working on creating care plans, but those who have been referred are still being reviewed, Gurley said. Some lawsuits have been dismissed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Lawmakers hoped the program would help people with severe mental illnesses, many of whom are homeless, get the help they need and get them off the streets. California is home to more than 171,000 homeless people, approximately 30% of the nation’s homeless population. But critics worried that the program would be ineffective and punitive because it could force people into treatment.

The administration did not release specific data on the number of petitions filed in each county. San Francisco, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Glenn counties began their trials on October 1, and Los Angeles County began trials on Friday. The rest of the state must have mental health courts in place by December 2024.

Counties are trying different approaches to implementation. Gurley said San Diego County is merging CARE courts with conservatorships to keep people out of conservatorships, while Orange County is moving mental health courts from typical courtrooms to community spaces.

“I’m very pleased with the level of engagement, the level of partnership, you know, the level of belief and optimism that’s growing in our county,” he said.

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Representatives from the nonprofit group Disability Rights California, which sued the state, arguing that the program violates due process and equal protection rights under the state constitution, said the CARE court could have unintended consequences. He said there is.

Community organizer Vanessa Ramos said: “Although authorities are expressing optimism, hasty implementation may overlook important aspects of community engagement and careful consideration.”

In October, Newsom changed the definition of “severely disabled” to include people who are unable to provide for basic needs like food and shelter on their own due to untreated mental illness or unhealthy drug or alcohol use. Signed into law expanding. To force treatment.

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Newsom is also pushing ahead with plans to reform the state’s mental health system. Newsom’s proposal would overhaul the way counties pay for mental and behavioral health programs and borrow $6.3 billion to pay for 10,000 new mental health treatment beds starting next March. It will be submitted to voters.

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