Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Wednesday that creates a new civil court-based path to get people with severe mental disorders off the street and into housing and treatment.
The new program is called CARE Court, which stands for Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment. Newsom says it's designed to provide people with mental health and substance use disorders shelter and services.
"CARE Court will now become a reality in our state, offering hope and a new path forward for thousands of struggling Californians and empowering their loved ones to help," Newsom said at a news conference.
The law essentially allows a civil court to compel people with severe psychiatric disorders to be placed in supportive housing and get mental health treatment and services.
People would be in the program for at least a year and would then either graduate out or be referred for another year of treatment.
The CARE Court program will be phased in over the next two years.
All of California's 58 counties will be required to take part, but only seven will take part in the first pilot program. Those seven are Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Francisco counties.
They will have until October of next year to get the court program up and running. The remaining 51 counties will have until December of 2024 to take part.
Several counties are not happy with the CARE Court plan, arguing that they don't have the funds or staff to enforce the program.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the new law may be a violation of a person's constitutional rights.
"It unravels decades of hard-won progress by the disability rights movement to secure self-determination, equality and dignity for people with disabilities," said Eve Garrow of ACLU Southern California. "There just isn't any empirical evidence that this will work."
Garrow says the law will undoubtedly be challenged in court.