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CARE Court System Rolling Out in October

Posted by Sara Cooper | Jul 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

Last September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment Act known as CARE into law under Senate Bill 1338. Its purpose is to implement a new branch into the court infrastructure that take care of mental health cases and the clients.

This legislation allows family members, medical professionals, police officers, and other legal officials to request the court to assist individuals who have mental illnesses and are struggling with alcohol and drug disorders through treatment plans created by behavioral health programs. Those that are eligible must fulfill the requirements: must be 18 years or older, meet the definition of being on the schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, and are not currently treated. Homelessness is not a requirement, but it is anticipated that many applicants who qualify will be falling under that category of not having stable housing. The state has estimated that 7,000 to 12,000 people will qualify for a treatment plan.

Once the person enters the CARE Court system through a psychiatric evaluation and qualify, they will have access to legal counsel and an advocate to help them navigate the court process. This process also includes a “CARE Plan” that has prescribed treatment and medication, and a placement for housing. This plan is a 12-month completion, and the person must attend all hearings to be in check with the progress of the plan along with the county they are under are able to provide court-ordered services. If they do not follow through, conservatorship will be mandated for the person.

The rollout will start in October with 7 counties – San Diego, Orange, San Francisco, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Glenn. Funding for 2023-2024 for the CARE Act was granted with $57 million, $26 million budgeted for these first counties as an approach to test out the implementation. The remainder $31 million will be shared with the other 51 counties as complete implementation will be launched in 2024. Counties that are not compliant with the CARE Act by 2024 will face a daily hefty fine from the state.

Initially, this act was sued by disability advocacy groups and was rejected by the California Supreme Court this past April. Uncertainties and concerns from this suit were primarily focused on how the CARE Court system does not have any budgeting for housing and behavioral health services and the agency of a person's rights be taken away for any further decisions to be made if they were to be put into a conservatorship. A UCSF study projects that by 2028, the state will have 50 percent less psychiatrists, 28 percent less psychologists, therapists, and social workers to meet the demand of behavioral health services if impactful changes are not made in the field. There is also a shortage of 1 million affordable rental homes for extremely low-income renters and no push currently to switch the access in making them available for CARE patients in the upcoming months and year.

According to KCRW, “The ACLU says it and its allies will pursue other legal challenges to CARE Court because the new program risks violating people's rights to due process and privacy, and perpetuates a stereotype that the seriously mentally ill don't want help.”

Garrow from ACLU also responded with concerns that a person entering the court system will heightened their mental illness(es) negatively, and that the act is just a Band-Aid to the problem of the justice system.

After the 12-month requirement, the person is opted to receive another year of treatment or a finalized plan, not ordered by the court. Failure for another yearly plan can still result in being considered by the court for conservatorship. This enforcement that is potentially going to harm BIPOC and/or LGBTQ+ individuals bring this developing court system in a new light. Some folks who are both disabled and unhoused claim this can be a great opportunity to get the services that they need without the requirement of having been diagnosed first-hand. Others that are against the act's implementation argue that their legal autonomy can be diminished throughout the process and just enforced to follow a treatment plan without self-permission.

Most counties are not as prepared as they should at this time with the CARE Act and how their courts will be organized for this new mandate. More to come later this year.

Related Content:

Supporting Documents:

LA County Moves To Expedite CARE Court Hiring To Help More People With Mental Illness | LAist

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