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Newsom's new California budget offers few details on costs for court-ordered homeless help

Hannah Wiley, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Gavin Newsom provided few details in his revised budget blueprint for how he plans to fund a sweeping proposal to use the courts to order treatment for homeless individuals with severe mental illness and addiction, although he insisted there are billions of dollars available to start implementing his plan.

Newsom in early March announced his Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court program, known as CARE Court — an ambitious effort to connect 7,000 to 12,000 people who have substance abuse and psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, with treatment and shelter assistance. A CARE Court plan might include medication and mental health services to stabilize a participant for up to two years, along with a plan for housing, a public defender and a personal advocate.

During a press conference Friday to unveil his $300.6 billion budget for 2022-23, Newsom said he has in recent years funneled billions into the services and housing necessary to make CARE Court successful. The Newsom administration has called on the Legislature to quickly pass the new budget proposal, so the governor can sign it into law by July 1.

The budget proposal includes nearly $65 million this year to kick-start CARE Court. Some $39 million would be spent to help California's judiciary conduct CARE Court hearings and provide other related resources, while $10 million would finance a supporter program within the state Department of Aging. A little more than $15 million would go to counties for training and technical assistance.

Newsom said those investments build on existing and proposed dollars to support California's behavioral health network and to build mental health housing. He noted $11.6 billion in annual funding for behavioral health and $4.5 billion he has pledged since last year to add thousands of housing units.

"This is unprecedented support," he said.


Mayors of some of California's most populous cities have supported the CARE Court framework as an innovative tool that could help thousands of people languishing in encampments and on the streets. Proponents of the plan argue that it's the best chance to end a humanitarian crisis in the nation's wealthiest state by providing much-needed services and shelter to vulnerable people.

But local governments and behavioral health providers have raised concerns over the funding available to sustain CARE Court. They worry that there's an inadequate number of qualified workers, especially in the Central Valley and Inland Empire, and that Newsom's proposal would need to come with substantial funding to fulfill its obligations.

Counties would face sanctions if they don't meet program requirements. Newsom's fiscal blueprint notes that his administration is working with counties, which are responsible for providing behavioral health treatment, to determine what other costs CARE Courts might include.

"Counties look forward to continued conversations on the costs and policy impacts of CARE Courts. These are critically needed in order for it to be successful," Graham Knaus, executive director for the California State Association of Counties, said in a video statement. "The recent investments, while welcome, are simply nibbling around the edges of the homelessness crisis."


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