By Rena Abdusalam
SACRAMENTO, CA – After the CA Legislature approved SB 1338, the “CARE Court,” Gov. Gavin Newsom last week provided a full-throated statement in support of the measure designed to help those with mental health illness—however, advocacy groups are urging him to veto the legislation.
“With our partners, we’ll make CARE Court a reality, giving hope to not just those suffering with severe, untreated mental illnesses with psychosis, but also offering a lifeline to the friends and family members of these individuals who for too long have felt hopeless in getting help for their loved ones,” said the governor.
Although CARE (Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment) Court, a creation from SB 1338, is a proposed civil court system designed to deliver treatment to Californians who live with a mental health disability, Disability Rights California and many other organizations are urging Governor Newsom to veto SB 1338.
The organizations claim that the new court system will subject involuntary mental health treatment for people with disabilities, drastically impacting people living with disabilities, and people experiencing houselessness.
Communities of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, other People of Color, and LGBTQ+, who all have maintained strong opposition, charge CARE Court will unravel the advancing process of constitutional and disability rights.
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, co-author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, commented, “Since the CARE Court proposal is designed to improve the lives of people with significant mental health disabilities, it is critically important that this population be engaged, respected and listened to on the issue of how best to help them.”
In spite of the concerns and criticism from its intended and impacted receivers, Care Court was launched by Newsom’s administration.
“We understand that you are trying to address the growing homelessness and mental health crises in California, but CARE Court is not the solution. In fact, CARE Court is likely to do real harm to the populations you are trying to help,” argues the opposition’s request of veto.
Focusing on people with schizophrenia and other psychotic disabilities, the framework will disproportionately target Black, Indigenous and People of Color, as studies have shown. Not only will it hinder the development of recovery tools for the marginalized, the misguided mental health treatment will finish as a system that will be considered as hurtful,” said the opposition.
Critics also noted the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act’s reform, an act passed in 1967 that changed the limit of involuntary detention and provided a “patients’ bill of rights,” should not be affected by CARE Court. LPS’s attempt at reform has many recommendations of improvement from organizations like Disability Rights California.
CARE Court opponents charge the measure relies on these false premises: people are rejecting offers of housing, access to behavioral health services based on one evaluation will solve a person’s mental health disabilities, and civil court is the least restrictive setting.
In fact, critics note, housing is at a record low and has long waitlists of other people desperate for homes; recovery is shown to take more than just health services on a single evaluation; and courts can basically strip a person of their rights without hearing any input from the disabled Californian.
“Recovery takes more than clinical appointments with court dates and in fact, recovery is primarily found to be successful when accessible, affordable housing is combined with community-based treatment settings, surrounded by peers, and provided through voluntary, accessible means,” claim the organizations.
They add, by ignoring discovered systems that create positive impacts, CARE Court is leaning toward a path of contributing to the division of people with disabilities, which will generate, once again, the repeating history of civil rights abuses.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee said the new court system will likely cost billions of dollars, which will redirect resources from investing in new housing and care for unhoused people.
To that, the measure’s opposition notes, “This state mandate will fail to deliver on what it promises to accomplish and will divert resources from other urgently needed programs.
“As well intentioned as CARE Court may be, it will inevitably harm and stigmatize people with mental health disabilities, especially people within communities of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. CARE Court is exploitative of poor people who need mental health care and will create a chilling effect preventing people from seeking treatment and care,” the opposition groups added.