More Californians with untreated mental illness and addiction issues could be detained against their will and forced into treatment under a law signed Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a move to help overhaul the state’s mental health system and address its growing homelessness crisis, reports the Associated Press. The new law, which reforms the state’s conservatorship system, expands the definition of “gravely disabled” to include people who are unable to provide themselves basic needs such as food and shelter due to an untreated mental illness or unhealthy drugs and alcohol use. Local governments say current laws leave their hands tied if a person refuses to receive help. The law is designed to make it easier for authorities to provide care to people with untreated mental illness or addictions to alcohol and drugs, many of whom are homeless.
The bill was aimed in part at dealing with the state’s homelessness crisis. California has home to more than 171,000 homeless people — about 30% of the nation's homeless population. The state has spent more than $20 billion in the last few years to help them, with mixed results. Newsom is pushing his own plan to reform the state’s mental health system. His proposal, which would overhaul how counties pay for mental and behavioral health programs and borrow $6.3 billion to pay for 10,000 new mental health treatment beds, are expected to go before voters next March.