The California Supreme Court April 19 shot down disability rights activists’ request to halt the implementation of Gov. Gavin Newsom's law providing treatment for individuals with severe mental illness through a court order, known as the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court.
The group, Disability Rights California—which advocates for those with disabilities in the state—is one of three coalitions that filed suit asking the court to examine the program earlier this year deeming it unconstitutional, alleging it would violate equal protection rights and due process.
The Western Center on Law and Poverty, as well as the Public Interest Law Project, were also involved in the filing.
But the Supreme Court rejected—without issuing an opinion—the group’s request to hear their case clearing the way for the program to go into effect in several regions across the state by Oct. 1, including San Francisco, Riverside, Orange, Stanislaus, Glenn, Tuolumne, and San Diego counties. Los Angeles County, along with the state’s remaining counties, have until December to implement the program.
The disability rights group said they are “disappointed that the California Supreme Court summarily denied our [p]etition challenging the constitutionality of the CARE Court program,” in an email to The Epoch Times.
“We, with our partners, will carefully monitor [its] implementation throughout the state and embrace all viable options to ensure that the rights of disabled Californians are respected and enforced,” Christian Abasto, director of the group’s Legal Advocacy Unit told The Epoch Times in a statement.
Last March, Newsom introduced the program as a new initiative aimed at providing housing, treatment, and mental health services to an estimated 7,000 to 12,000 Californians—including the homeless—with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia. The program was established as Senate Bill 1338 and signed into law in September 2022.
According to the governor’s office, individuals can be admitted into a CARE Court through a request made by family members, county, health providers, emergency responders, and those working in community social services.
Referrals for evaluation to the program are heard by a judge and if the person qualifies they are admitted to the program, including receiving treatment—and housing, if needed—known as a Care Plan for up to a year, with regular check-ins to review progress.
If someone does not successfully complete their plan, they may be hospitalized or referred to conservatorship as a last resort, with the assumption that no other suitable options are available under current laws.
The program is part of Newsom's larger plan to invest $14 billion over several years to create 55,000 new housing units and treatment opportunities, as well as an annual investment of over $10 billion into community behavioral health services.
“CARE Court means new hope for thousands of Californians with untreated mental health and substance abuse issues,” Newsom said in December alongside other state officials. “While we watch other places in America move swiftly towards more involuntary hospitalization, in California, we’re doing it the right way—community based care, a focus on housing, and accountability for everyone involved.”
Under the law, if an individual denies services and is deemed unable to make decisions for themselves due to their mental state, they could be placed into conservatorship.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.