LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County has about 75,000 people living on the streets. Officials estimate about 10% suffer schizophrenia or other disorders.
"There are too many people with severe mental illness who are living on the streets," LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn says. "We've all seen them and so far, we've been unable to reach them."
Los Angeles County officials on Thursday announced a new program called Care Court to help people receive treatment and services.
"We are really committed to helping people get the support they need to improve their mental health and well being. We are here to change the trajectory of people's lives," says Dr. Lisa Wong from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.
With this program a family member or someone else can file a petition asking to determine if someone qualifies.
A judge can then order a care plan for the person.
Samantha Jessner, presiding judge for the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, says "This new tool provides an alternative to the way in which most individuals enter our county's mental health system, which is usually through the criminal justice system."
"Initially, LA County wasn't going to have this program until next year. But we are ground zero for this problem. And so we moved our start date up an entire year," adds Hahn.
Not everyone likes this program. The Western Center on Law & Poverty sued to stop the Care law, saying it forces treatment on people.
In an article it claimed "The law paves the way to eventually institutionalize people who are unhoused and have schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders."
Ricardo García, the Los Angeles County public defender says "To those who are concerned that Care court will lead to forced treatments or detention, I want to emphasize participation in Care Court is absolutely voluntary."
The program officially begins Friday and until then authorities say they're not sure how many people would qualify for Care Court.