Gov. Newsom announces plan to overhaul California’s mental health care

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration on Thursday proposed a plan to overhaul a behavioral health system that for years has failed thousands of Californians with severe mental illness, leaving many to cycle in and out of jail or hospitals and languish on the streets.

The new plan, called “Care Court,” would target people suffering from psychosis who have lost their ability to care for themselves. It would bring them before a judge, who could order them to begin a mandated treatment plan with options for psychiatric treatment, medication and housing. Counties would be required to provide the treatment ordered.

“I’m a Californian, you’re a Californian,” Jason Elliott, senior counselor to Newsom, said when asked why this overhaul was needed, “we both walk our neighborhoods and we see encampments larger than they’ve ever been, we see people who are clearly in crisis on our streets. So I think the case makes itself that we need to do something different and something better…A new approach is called for.”

Care Court would provide an alternative to conservatorships, which force people into treatment, often in locked facilities. Because of their restrictive nature and their infringement upon the subject’s civil rights, conservatorships are controversial, difficult to obtain and relatively seldomly used.

Ideally, a person would enter Care Court before their condition deteriorated to the point where a restrictive conservatorship was needed — or before they committed a crime that landed them in jail. Clients could be referred to the new program by a number of stakeholders, including family members, clinicians, outreach workers, the court and first responders.

The program would be for the “sickest of the sick,” including people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other illnesses, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly told reporters Thursday. He estimates between about 7,000 and 12,000 Californians are eligible.

But the program would first need to be passed into law by the state legislature. A bill has not yet been written or introduced, Elliott said. First, the administration wants to hear input from families of people with mental illness, clinicians and others in the community.

“We hope that that bill will be taken up and passed by the legislature very quickly,” Elliott said, “so we can get that into law, because we don’t have any time to waste here.”

People admitted into Care Court also would be assigned a “supporter” — a caseworker who would help them develop a care plan. As the client stabilizes, the supporter would work with them to write a directive outlining their wishes for their medical treatment. That document could then be referred to if the client relapses later.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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