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San Mateo County adopts CARE Court program to aid homeless with mental health challenges

San Mateo County, California – Beginning registration this past Monday, San Mateo County has been among the first in California to adopt the recently created CARE Court program. This project seeks to address homelessness among people with serious psychiatric illnesses by offering a new legal path for help.

The program, officially known as the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment Court, was created under Senate Bill 1338. It provides a structured approach to stability and recovery, therefore establishing a precedent in the legal treatment of mental health problems within the homeless population. Counties failing to apply the program by December 1, a statewide deadline set, risk fines of up to $1,000 day. Governor Gavin Newsom’s larger plan calls for this ambitious action as part of creative solutions to handle California’s growing homelessness crisis.

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“Continue to do what you’ve done and you get what you got. And look what we’ve got. It’s unacceptable,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said, who previously noted that a change in approach is necessary to address the issue.

San Mateo County has been among the first in California to adopt the recently created CARE Court program to solve homelessness
Credit: Deposit Photos

Recent data from San Mateo County show an alarming trend: an 18% spike in unhoused people observed since 2022 and an astonishing 70% jump since 2017. Local authorities have said that the provision of the required help to disadvantaged groups depends critically on the CARE Court. San Mateo County spokesman claims that this initiative is essential in providing the vulnerable members of the unhoused populations the required assistance.

Still, the initiative has not been greeted without doubt. Critics, like the ACLU of California, contend that CARE Court may result in forced conservatorships, therefore replicating methods of a bygone age that handled people with severe mental illness.

“The CARE Court is a flashback… to a dark era when forced treatment of people with serious mental health conditions was the norm. It would unravel decades of hard-won progress by the disability rights movement to secure self-determination, equality, and dignity for people with disabilities,” the ACLU said in a statement.

Further skepticism comes from academic circles. In a TIME magazine op-ed, UC Berkeley assistant professor in community health sciences Jerel Ezell underlined the program’s shortcomings in tackling fundamental problems including the high cost of living and lack of accessible housing, hence describing the efforts as a “Faustian bargain.”

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San Mateo County’s Behavioral Health Department, however, feels hopeful about the program’s voluntary character in spite of these complaints. Based on their experience, the department declared that their team’s main priorities will be to involve people on a voluntary basis and that clients do better when they get to make decisions regarding their treatment.

The spokesman further stated that anyone who get in touch would receive immediate assistance. Though its long-term success and acceptance are yet to be determined, the initiative is evidence of San Mateo County’s dedication to creative solutions for its most vulnerable citizens.

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