California aims to expand mental health treatment with new conservatorship definition of 'gravely disabled'
The “CARE Court” program, short for Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court, is being implemented in eight California counties this year and statewide next year. Image from Shutterstock.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Tuesday that is intended to expand the categories of people who can be involuntarily detained for mental health treatment.
The law expands the definition of “gravely disabled” in conservatorship law, which governs the appointment of conservators who can direct care for a limited time, according to a press release and Courthouse News Service.
The previous definition allows appointment of a conservator for people who have a serious mental illness that leaves them unable to secure food, clothing or shelter. The new law, Senate Bill 43, expands the definition to allow conservatorships for people who can’t provide for their personal safety or necessary medical care because of either a severe substance use disorder or serious mental illnesses.
Counties could delay implementing the new definition until January 2026, according to Courthouse News Service.
The law builds on Newsom’s efforts to transform services for people with mental health and substance disorders, according to the press release. Those people “are too often suffering without treatment and facing repeated homelessness, hospitalization, and jail time—and often premature deaths,” the press release said.
A prior law signed in September 2022 creates a civil “CARE Court” program. The law allows a range of people, including first responders and family members, to file a petition that refers people with psychotic disorders to a court that can order a treatment plan. Those who don’t complete the care plans can be referred for a conservatorship and hospitalized.
The “CARE Court” program, short for Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court, is being implemented in eight California counties this year and statewide next year.