A California Chamber of Commerce-supported proposal to establish a support system for homeless individuals with mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders was signed into law last week by Governor Gavin Newsom.
The proposal, SB 1338 (Umberg; D-Santa Ana), enacts the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act. It changes the state’s process for caring for individuals facing extreme mental illness or drug addiction, creating a system with advocates for those who need care, but also wraparound services to ensure those most in need get the treatment that’s needed.
The law authorizes specified persons to petition a civil court to create a voluntary CARE agreement or a court-ordered CARE plan and implement services to provide behavioral health care, including stabilization medication, housing, and other services to adults who are suffering from psychotic disorders and other conditions.
The CARE Court will be implemented statewide, starting with the counties of Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Francisco.
“We appreciate the leadership of Governor Newsom and the authors of the CARE Court proposal in taking on one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching challenges facing our communities — providing lifesaving services to severely mentally incapacitated homeless individuals,” said CalChamber President and CEO Jennifer Barrera.
“California employers have a clear stake in improving treatment and outcomes for these individuals. They are fellow Californians for whom we have an obligation of care. Many employers share neighborhoods with mentally ill individuals or those dealing with substance abuse addictions and can attest to the failure so far to adequately serve these individuals who are in crisis. This new law signals a change in how we are dealing with this crisis.
“The issues surrounding the tragedy of homelessness in California are affecting the ability of businesses to operate in healthy, thriving communities. We offer our support and assistance as the program is being implemented.”
At the September 14 signing ceremony, Governor Newsom described CARE Court as “offering hope and a new path forward for thousands of struggling Californians and empowering their loved ones to help. I thank our legislators and the broad coalition of partners who made this day possible and look forward to our work together to implement this transformative program in communities across California.”
Funding for the CARE Court framework, according to the Governor’s news release, is part of the state’s $15.3 billion investment to address homelessness and includes $1.5 billion for behavioral bridge housing, more than $11.6 billion annually for mental health programs throughout the state, and more than $1.4 billion for the state’s health and human services workforce. Another $88.3 million in CARE Court start-up funds was provided for the state, counties, courts, self-help and legal aid.
As described in the release and on the program website, the CARE Court will provide individuals with clinically appropriate, community-based and court-ordered CARE plans consisting of culturally and linguistically competent county mental health and substance use disorder treatment services. These include short-term stabilization medications, wellness and recovery supports, social services and housing.
Services are provided to the individual while they live in the community. Plans can be between 12 and 24 months. The individual’s team also includes a volunteer supporter to help them make self-directed care decisions, and an attorney.
More information about the CARE Court framework is available at this link.