California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s bold plan to help some of the state's most vulnerable residents isn’t getting the praise or resounding support he might have hoped for. A Senate bill that outlines the governor’s proposal for a mental health arm of civil courts got its first hearing on Tuesday. Opponents went back and forth with the bill’s advocates over whether such a system could realistically be effective and respect the civil liberties of the people it’s meant to help, Politico reports. Under the "Care Court" framework, someone experiencing a severe psychotic disorder who lacks the capacity to make sound medical decisions could appear before a judge, who could order the county to provide services. If the person doesn’t participate, they could be subject to more court hearings and the potential for conservatorship.
Care Courts would be one of the most aggressive tools the state has to help those with severe mental health and substance abuse problems, a group visible on sidewalks and underpasses and one of voters’ top concerns. Care Courts are an immediate and visible solution to one of the most heartbreaking sides of homelessness. A person in Care Court would get a public defender and a supporter to help them advocate for themselves. That hasn’t placated civil rights groups, which have blasted the plan as involuntary and coercive. Other groups say the legislation doesn’t do enough. County organizations argue that counties don’t necessarily need a court order to provide people with help, but they need dedicated state dollars for the staff and resources that would go toward Care Court clients.