California Tackles Mental Illness & Addiction

Cities all over the country — a lot of them in the PIA Western Alliance states of Oregon, Washington and California — are battling troubles from homeless individuals and homeless individuals suffering from mental illness.

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed — what some these days consider — a radical bill into law that could let cities and individuals detain and treat people with mental illness and addiction issues without their consent.

“California is undertaking a major overhaul of our mental health system,” Newsom said. “The mental health crisis affects us all, and people who need the most help have been too often overlooked. We are working to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and that people get the help they need and the respect they deserve.”

The goal of the law — recently passed by the California Legislature and that won’t go into effect until 2024 — is to repair the state’s antiquated mental health system and to address the homelessness that has turned from a problem into a full-blown crisis.

Until now, if a person refused to get help, individuals, cities and counties could do nothing. The law reforms California’s conservatorship system and adds “gravely disabled” to the definition.

It now includes people that are unable to feed and shelter themselves because of mental illness or drug or alcohol abuse, or both, or all three. This opens up avenues for those individuals, cities and counties to take action and help the “gravely disabled” person out.

One reason the Legislature — and Newsom — wanted to move on the problem is because California is home to over 171,000 homeless people. That’s 30% of those considered homeless in the country.

Last year, California spent over $20 billion on the problem. The results were — at best — inconclusive.

The bill is supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness California, and by the mayors of the state’s biggest cities — cities hugely impacted by homelessness and the mental illness that often accompanies that diagnosis.

Opponents include disability rights activists like Samuel Jain of Disability rights California. They worry that the new law will get people locked up and will deprive them of their constitutional rights.

“For no one to oppose this huge erosion of civil rights is just a really concerning change in the state legislature,” he said. “We don’t feel that this is going to change anything on the streets. This strategy seems to be to take people with mental health disabilities and put them into institutions.”

The bill was authored by Democratic Sen. Susan Eggman. She said this should only be used as a last resort, and that it is one alternative to sending people with mental illness and drug and/or alcohol addiction to prison.

“Our state prisons are full of people who, after they’ve been restored to competency, are in our state prisons because of serious mental health issues and drug addiction issues,” she said. “I think that is the most inhumane way to treat the most vulnerable of us.”

On another front, Newsom signed to pieces of legislation into law that will put a $6.38 billion bond before the voters to pump up the state’s mental health system. If passed, the money will provide 11,500 new treatment beds and some housing, and will set up a way to treat 26,700 people via outpatient facilities.

Of that money, $2.4 billion will be used to train 65,000 workers to treat the mentally ill and to help with addiction.

“Today, again, is about holding ourselves to a higher level of accountability and higher level of expectation,” Newsom said. “It’s about creating a framework where we actually can deliver.”

Source link: Associated Press —

Source link: CalMatters —

Source link: The Hill —

About PIA Western Alliance

The Professional Insurance Agents Western Alliance is a membership organization promoting and enhancing the success of independent agencies seeking to grow, learn and be heard within the industry.


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