SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Governor Gavin Newsom just gave the green light to a new law that’s raising some eyebrows. The law makes it easier for authorities to require treatment for people dealing with mental health or addiction problems by broadening the definition of “gravely disabled” to encompass those incapable of meeting their basic needs, like food and shelter, due to untreated mental health problems or substance abuse.
The aim is to overhaul the state’s mental health system and address its growing homelessness crisis. According to research by the University of California, San Francisco, California is home to 30% of the nation’s homeless population.
“We see the signs of our broken system every day – too many Californians suffering from mental health needs or substance use disorders and unable to get support or care they need. This will prioritize getting people off the streets, out of tents and into treatment.” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press release.
The Associated Press reports that those in favor of the bill, like the National Alliance on Mental Illness California and the mayors of California’s major cities, argue that the current conservatorship law has posed hurdles in delivering essential mental health treatment to those who need it the most. Critics of the bill, including disability rights advocates, expressed concerns about the potential for more people to be involuntarily confined, thus violating their basic rights. They also worry that pushing someone into treatment could end up doing more harm than good.
The law is slated to go into effect in 2024, but counties have the option to delay its implementation until 2026.