Home Jurisdiction Assembly passes Newsom’s ‘CARE Court’ proposal to let judges determine mental health plans

Assembly passes Newsom’s ‘CARE Court’ proposal to let judges determine mental health plans


San Francisco would be one of the first counties under the jurisdiction of Gavin Newsom’s CARE Court bill, which is sweeping through the state legislature with great momentum, despite questions about whether it is simply a inefficient and hostile bureaucracy.

People who were in San Francisco when Gavin Newsom was mayor will probably remember his Care Not Cash program, which he says virtually eliminated homelessness in San Francisco, though that clearly didn’t happen. Now that he is governor, Newsom launched a similarly named proposal called CARE Court (Community Assistance, Recovery & Empowerment Court) in March, introduced in a clearly pre-coordinated Heather Knight column in the Chronicle, and a headline saying he was “inspired by the misery on the streets of SF”.

“There is no compassion for people with no clothes defecating and urinating in the middle of the streets, screaming and talking to themselves,” Newsom told The Chron at the time. “There is nothing appropriate about a child and a mother walking down the street trying to get to the park and being accosted by people who clearly need help.”

The plan creates another layer of the justice system where people with mental illnesses can be sent to court and forced to follow the mental health care plan. And KQED Reports CARE Court Bill overwhelmingly passed the State Assembly (62-2!) Tuesday, which bodes very well for his chances in the Senate.

“I think this is a major step towards building a system that will be effective, as opposed to the current system,” Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Stephen Manley told KQED, who oversees a psychiatric diversion court. He describes the current system as one “where these individuals just walk through our jails to a hospital emergency room, back to the streets, back to jail, back to hospital. And it doesn’t stop.”

You can definitely say he’s right. The Chronicle published an article last month showing that the same five people with mental illness cost the city $4 million in an ambulance over the past five years.

Image: CA DHHS

According to a description on California Health and Human Service website, the CARE court “links a person in crisis to a court-ordered plan of care for up to 12 months, with the option to extend for an additional 12 months.” The framework provides individuals with a set of clinically appropriate and culturally and linguistically competent community services and supports. This includes short-term stabilization medication, wellness and recovery supports, and connection to social services, including housing.

Sounds fine in theory, until you consider we do not have this accommodation, nor, frankly, many of the other promised services. “It ignores the very harsh reality that we are living in right now,” James Burch, deputy director of the Anti Police-Terror Project, told KQED. “We are missing tens of thousands of beds in the Bay Area from the permanent housing that we need. …And we are in dire need of voluntary treatment programs.

If the bill passes, San Francisco would be one of the first counties required to participate in the program by October 2023; the others are Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties. The rest of the state is expected to be on board by December 2024.

A majority of 62 to 2 in the Assembly indicates a very safe bet that he will pass in the Senate. And of course Newsom will sign it, it’s his bill. But it remains to be seen whether, like Care Not Cash, Newsom’s mouth writes checks that, in reality, don’t cash.

Related: Newsom proposes ‘care court’ to coerce mentally ill people into treatment [SFist]

Image: @CAgovernor by Twitter