Gov. Gavin Newsom provided few details in his revised budget proposal on how he plans to fund a sweeping proposal to use the courts to order treatment for homeless people with serious mental illness and addictions, though insisted that there were billions of dollars available to start implementing his project.
Newsom announced in early March its Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court program, known as CARE Court – an ambitious effort to connect 7,000 to 12,000 people suffering from substance abuse and psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, with a treatment and shelter assistance. A CARE Court plan can include medication and mental health services to stabilize a participant for up to two years, as well as a housing plan, public defender and personal attorney.
At a Friday press conference to unveil his $300.6 billion budget for 2022-23, Newsom said he had in recent years invested billions in the services and housing needed for CARE Court’s success. The Newsom administration has called on the Legislature to quickly pass the new budget proposal, so the governor can sign it before July 1.
The proposed budget includes nearly $65 million this year to launch CARE Court. Some $39 million would be spent to help the California justice system conduct CARE court hearings and provide other related resources, while $10 million would fund a support program within the State Department of Aging. Just over $15 million would go to counties for training and technical assistance.
Newsom said these investments build on existing and proposed dollars to support California’s Behavioral Health Network and to build mental health housing. He noted $11.6 billion in annual funding for behavioral health and $4.5 billion he has pledged since last year to add thousands of housing units.
“It’s unprecedented support,” he said.
Mayors of some of California’s most populous cities have endorsed the CARE Court framework as an innovative tool that could help thousands of people languishing in encampments and on the streets. Proponents of the plan argue it is the best chance to end a humanitarian crisis in the country’s wealthiest state by providing much-needed services and shelter to vulnerable people.
But local governments and behavioral health providers have expressed concerns about the funding available to support CARE Court. They fear that there is an insufficient number of skilled workers, especially in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire, and that Newsom’s proposal requires substantial funding to fulfill its obligations.
Counties would face penalties if they failed to meet program requirements. Newsom’s tax plan notes that his administration is working with counties, which are responsible for providing behavioral health treatment, to determine what other costs CARE courts might include.
“Counties look forward to continued conversations about the costs and policy impacts of CARE Courts. These are critical to making this successful,” Graham Knaus, executive director of the California State Assn. of Counties, said in a statement. video statement “Recent investments, while welcome, are only chipping away at the edges of the homelessness crisis.”
Michelle Doty Cabrera, executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Assn. of California, said the budget must take into account the amount of extra work CARE Court would create for providers, including often overlooked responsibilities such as time spent in court and on the streets for outreach.
“And we think it will be in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars,” Doty Cabrera said.
A proposal to implement the CARE Court framework is pending in the Legislative Assembly. So far, Senate Bill 1338 has passed two political committees with overwhelming support, despite questions from Democrats and Republicans about the legal and moral merits of the program.
Some of their concerns are reflected in opposition from civil rights and disability groups who have spent weeks lobbying CARE Court in the Legislative Assembly. The American Civil Liberties Union California Action, Disability Rights California, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, among others, argued that CARE Court would criminalize poverty and homelessness and that a forced treatment model is not as effective than connecting people to voluntary services. and housing.
“As a black woman currently living with mental illness, having experienced trauma such as homelessness, wrongful incarceration and misdiagnosis of mental illness for nearly 10 years, I oppose the Governor’s proposal Newsom from CARE Court,” Shonique Williams, a statewide organizer for the Dignity and Power Now group, said in a statement. “Its framework is not a true model of care for California communities, but a plan to create and fund a new addition to the prison system.
“As with current criminal courts, marginalized communities will not have the proper tools and resources to defend themselves against the CARE tribunal when forced into involuntary treatment, and will ultimately be subject to the harm of belonging to a underrepresented community in America,” the statement added.
Newsom’s budget director, Keely Martin Bosler, said Friday that the administration does not yet have a clear idea of the costs that will be borne by counties, but will continue to work with local officials to better understand what the program has. would need to be successful. Lawmakers and Newsom will spend the next month negotiating the details of a final budget, which must be passed by the Legislative Assembly by June 15.
Los Angeles Times