Michelle Doty Cabrera, executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California, said the budget has to factor in how much additional work CARE Court would create for providers, including often-overlooked responsibilities such as time spent in court and on the streets for outreach.
"And we think it will exceed hundreds of millions of dollars," Doty Cabrera said.
A proposal to implement the CARE Court framework is working its way through the Legislature. So far, Senate Bill 1338 has passed two policy committees with overwhelming support, despite questions from both Democrats and Republicans over the legal and moral merits of the program.
Some of their worries are reflected in opposition by civil and disability rights groups that have spent weeks lobbying against CARE Court in the Legislature. The American Civil Liberties Union California Action, Disability Rights California and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, among others, have argued that CARE Court would criminalize poverty and homelessness and that a forced-treatment model is not as effective as connecting people to voluntary services and housing.
"As a Black woman currently living with mental health disabilities, lived experience of traumas such as houselessness, wrongful incarceration and misdiagnosis of mental health disabilities for nearly 10 years, I oppose Governor Newsom's proposal of CARE Court," Shonique Williams, a statewide organizer for the group Dignity and Power Now, said in a statement. "Its framework is not a true model of care for communities of California, but a plan to create and fund a new addition to the carceral system.
"As with the current criminal courts, marginalized communities will not have the proper tools and resources to defend themselves against CARE Court when being forced into involuntary treatment, and will ultimately be subjected to the harm of being from an underrepresented community in America," the statement added.
Newsom's budget director, Keely Martin Bosler, said Friday that the administration doesn't yet have a clear sense of the costs that would be borne by counties but will continue to work with local officials to better understand what the program would need to succeed. Lawmakers and Newsom will spend the next month negotiating details on a final budget, which has to pass the Legislature by June 15.
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