Guest Commentary: Disability Rights California Disappointed with Governor Newsom’s Signing of SB 1338 (Umberg) CARE COURT into Law

This comes at a loss for people with disabilities and particularly to Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities 

By Disability Rights California

Santa Clara County, CA – Governor Newsom signed SB 1338 (Umberg) into law and Disability Rights California (DRC) is extremely disappointed and saddened, as signing this bill sets California back as opposed to progressing the State forward.

CARE Court expands an already problematic system into a framework of coerced, court-ordered mental health treatment that goes back to the country’s horrific history of ableism and subjecting disabled people to being a separate class.

Since CARE Court was first conceptualized, DRC and our allies have stood in strong opposition to the harmful impact of implementing this system—that will particularly impact the Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities.

CARE Court targets unhoused Californians diagnosed with psychotic disorders, and research shows these individuals are more likely to be Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). We cannot ignore that from our nation’s inception, there is racial discrimination in housing, land use, banking, employment, healthcare, policing, and the legal system. As a result, any law passed that disregards the harmful impact on BIPOC communities only stands to further institutionalize racism.

The “Nothing About Us, Without Us” motto, rings true. Pioneers of the disability and mental health consumer movement have fought for decades for equity and inclusion, and to remove stigma. The critical work was designed to recognize the rights of individuals with disabilities to live self-determined lives, thrive in our communities, and be treated with the dignity that is inherent within us. Yet, with one signature, the Governor has restricted due process rights and created additional barriers for some of his most vulnerable individuals.

Rather than truly committing to ending homelessness in California—through meaningful investments in affordable housing and appropriate mental health services—Governor Newsom falsely holds up CARE Court as a solution.

Lunyea Willis, a DRC client, says, “This is a ‘turn and burn’ solution that puts more money into the court’s pockets instead of helping individuals get housing that helps them live a healthy, housed life.” Willis is also a member of the Mental Health Association of Orange County and a homeless advocate – who was unhoused for nearly 5 years while living with a mental health condition that could have subjected her to CARE Court.

Leslie Napper, a Native Californian, Black, living with Serious Mental Illness says, “I am deeply saddened that California’s legislature has nearly unanimously supported the CARE Court proposal. Instead of providing housing and voluntary support, CARE Court will subject our unhoused community members living with mental illness to civil court, further traumatizing them. I see nothing civil or caring about CARE Court.”

Vanessa Ramos says, “Ignoring and dismissing the voices of disability communities around the Nation speaks to how far back California’s mental health system truly is. CARE Court will cost at least hundreds of millions of dollars to serve 7 to 12,000 people, but essential housing is not guaranteed. That’s just reckless. As a member of the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and Disability Community, I stand in solidarity with the hundreds of people who have shared their need of sustainable permanent supportive housing such as the evidence-based Housing First model.”

As former United States Senator Tom Harkin, co-author of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, stated, “Looking at our country’s sad history of segregating, confining, sterilizing and forcibly medicating people with mental health and other disabilities, it is important to recognize that some of the greatest human rights violations have occurred in the name of helping the people whose rights were being trampled.” We cannot allow that history to repeat.

As nationwide opposition grows, DRC vows to continue to fight against this system and move our fight against CARE Court to the courtroom. We will continue our advocacy throughout California and the nation to increase access to adequate health care, services, and for inclusive, affordable, and accessible housing statewide.

For more information on DRC’s opposition and articles related to CARE Court: Disability Rights California Information on CARE Court | Disability Rights California

Disability Rights California (DRC) – Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of DRC is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit:

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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