California’s conservatorship law, which was set to expand involuntary care and treatment to address the state’s homelessness crisis, will be postponed in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties in the Central Valley. This decision comes after the board of supervisors in both counties opted to defer the new law until January, giving them an additional two years to comply with the changes.
The bill, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October, marks the first major amendments to the state’s 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. The new law will expand the definition of “gravely disabled” to include severe substance use disorder without accompanying mental illness, as well as broaden the criteria for those with existing mental health disorders.
While some groups, such as NAMI California and the California State Association of Psychiatrists, support the bill, others, including Disability Rights California and Human Rights Watch, have raised concerns about infringing on the civil rights of vulnerable populations. The delay in implementation is due to worries about insufficient capacities at behavioral health facilities, emergency rooms, and drug treatment facilities.
The governor has expressed dissatisfaction with the delay, urging counties to understand the urgency of the situation and the need to address the homelessness crisis. Despite the postponement, mental health providers in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties see the new law as a valuable tool to help deal with the state’s mental health challenges, especially among the homeless population. The state’s ongoing efforts to establish specialized CARE Courts and build new psychiatric facilities also aim to address these issues.