California Care Court Bill

Doubt - multiple Post-It notes floating in front and around an African American man

The California Legislature is considering creating a “CARE Court” to fast track determinations of mental competency to mandate treatment.

The Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Program is being proposed to both the California Assembly (AB2830) and State Senate (SB1338).

This bill is being strongly opposed by many disability rights organizations with letters from Human Rights Watch and a coalition led by Disability Rights California.

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Key points

1. Homelessness in California

Address housing and you address a large number of problems. If you drive around California cities and actually look around, you’ll find streets lined with RVs, campers, and cars where those who can’t find or afford housing are living rough. This is in addition to those who are living both homeless and car-less on the  streets.

2. Grossly underfunded disability and mental health services

Since the first Great De-institutionalization under Reagan, home and community based services have never been adequately funded. Also, the because Disability Services are funded as Benefits (like welfare) and not Insurance, disabled people are essentially forced NOT to work, build assets, or even get married to protect their meager services.

3. Second class citizens (or worse)

In addition to being denied the actual right to participate in our economy, disabled people are already subject to punitive court action through Conservatorships which can casually strip them of their rights (and it can happen to anyone) with minimal oversight or recourse – as seen most recently in the FreeBrittany case for Brittany Spears… unfortunately, most people subject to conservatorships don’t have millions of fans and fame to help them.

4. … and then there’s Race

Diagnoses of mental illness are quite disproportionate by race. This starts in our schools with “Emotional Disturbance” diagnosis falling on African American boys far out of their proportion of the population and proceeding through adulthood.

Quotable

CARE Court promotes a system of involuntary, coerced treatment, enforced by an expanded judicial infrastructure, that will, in practice, simply remove unhoused people with perceived mental health conditions from the public eye without effectively addressing those mental health conditions and without meeting the urgent need for housing. We urge you to reject this bill and instead to take a more holistic, rights-respecting approach to address the lack of resources for autonomy-affirming treatment options and affordable housing. – Human Rights Watch

“There’s no compassion with people with their clothes off defecating and urinating in the middle of the streets, screaming and talking to themselves,” Newsom said. “There’s nothing appropriate about a kid and a mom going down the street trying to get to the park being accosted by people who clearly need help.” (Knight)

What can be done?

Let’s start working the pervasive problems rather than the rare symptoms

1. Get really serious about addressing housing

Housing people is the right thing to do. And, many studies have shown that it is also much cheaper overall to guarantee housing rather than provide services on the street

2. Fully fund Home and Community Based Services

Providing a solid safety net for all disabled, mentally ill, and elderly people so that they can live in their communities will help many people and radically reduce the number of people whose condition will decline to where they are perceived to be a “public nuisance”.

3. Transition to Universal Disability Services Insurance

Change our model for mental health and disability services so that people can work and participate in our society as much as possible instead of continuing our “Poverty by Design” benefits system

4. End Mental Health and Disability Hot Potato

California has many overlapping, gap-filled, competing and mostly confusing systems for supporting disabled, elderly, and mentally ill people. Finding services, separately applying to each agency, working the different systems would be exhausting for a healthy person who doing this as a full-time job. No one is in control. No one is accountable. This new CARE Court is a patch on top of a Rube Goldberg Device held together by tape and band aids.

These systems need to be combined, integrated, and made accountable before we contemplate adding yet another system.

 

Human Rights Watch’s Opposition to CARE Court – https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/24/human-rights-watchs-opposition-care-court#

Disability Rights California & Coalition’s Letter in Opposition to CARE Court – https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/latest-news/disability-rights-california-coalitions-letter-in-opposition-to-care-court

Exclusive: Gavin Newsom has a bold new mental health plan, inspired by the misery on S.F. streets. Will it work? Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle – https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/bayarea/heatherknight/article/Gavin-Newsom-Care-Court-mental-health-16973070.php