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CARE Court Signed into Law—Could Be A Game Changer in Helping Those Suffering from Untreated Mental Disorders

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Kisha Smith

Governor Gavin Newsom signed The Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment Act (SB 1338) this week enacting CARE Court, a paradigm shift that will provide individuals with severe mental health and substance use disorders the care and services they need to get healthy.

Under CARE Court, families, clinicians, first responders and others will be able to refer individuals suffering from schizophrenia spectrum or psychotic disorders.

“With overwhelming support from the Legislature and stakeholders across California, CARE Court will now become a reality in our state, offering hope and a new path forward for thousands of struggling Californians and empowering their loved ones to help,” said Governor Newsom. “I thank our legislators and the broad coalition of partners who made this day possible and look forward to our work ahead together to implement this transformative program in communities across California.”

Implemented statewide and starting with a phased-in approach in seven counties, 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 12-24 months. In addition to their full clinical team, the client-centered approach also includes a volunteer supporter to help individuals make self-directed care decisions, and an attorney.

The bill received bipartisan and near-unanimous approval in both the state Senate and Assembly and is supported by unprecedented funding under the state’s $15.3 billion investment in addressing homelessness. The CARE Court’s framework includes real accountability with counties and other local governments subject to fines by the court if they are out of compliance.

“I have seen first-hand the good that can come when our judicial, executive, and legislative branches work together to address delicate populations and nuanced issues like mental health, veterans, at-risk youth, and substance use,” said Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) who co-authored the bill with Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton). “The individual frameworks and best practices for collaboration exist here – and we pulled them together in SB 1338 for something new and revolutionary in California.”

“It is an inescapable conclusion – with the evidence observable in community after community in California – that our behavioral health system is broken and has allowed too many people with severe mental illness to fall through the cracks,” said Eggman. “The crisis is playing out on our streets and Californians want an answer to the crisis of conscience we all feel when we see this suffering firsthand. The CARE Act provides a critical new on-ramp into the behavioral health system for a population of people that are the hardest to reach. Basic human dignity requires us to put our full effort into helping get care for people struggling with severe mental illness on our streets.


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