Care Court Act Signed into Law

Governor Newsom signed
SB 1338 (Umberg- Garden Grove) on September 14th, putting into motion the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act, which he proposed earlier this year as a key component of his strategy to tackle the State’s homeless crisis. The CARE Act authorizes family, friends, first responders, and behavioral health staff to petition a civil court to create a voluntary CARE agreement or a court-ordered CARE plan that includes county behavioral health services, including behavioral health care, stabilization medication, housing, and other services to adults suffering from schizophrenia spectrum and psychotic disorders. Read more to learn more about the bill and the pilot jurisdictions that are required to launch by October 1, 2023.

The Act creates a new mental health arm in California’s civil courts that allows people experiencing a severe mental health disorder who are unable to make sound decisions for themselves to appear before a superior court judge who can require that the county provide services. If the person does not cooperate with the care plan, they could face additional court hearings and possible conservatorship. Each person who is engaged with the CARE court will be assigned a public defender and a supporter who will help them navigate the process and advocate for themselves. Read more here.

The bill was amended to provide counties with more time to prepare for the new requirements. Seven counties will be pilot jurisdictions and be required to establish the new courts by October 1, 2023, with the remaining 51 counties required to be up and running by December of 2024. The Seven pilot counties are: Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne. This year’s budget includes $88 million, with $57 million in startup funding for counties, including $26 million for the pilot jurisdictions. The remaining funds will go to the State Department of Health Care Services, the Health and Human Services Agency, and the Judicial Branch to set up the courts and train staff. To learn more, check out this article from CalMatters, which goes into detail about the proposal, the challenges, and the concerns.