Dealing with the Mentally Ill Homeless

This is one of the homeless women that now claims the Palisades Library is her home.

Many times, when there is a mentally ill homeless person living in a public space, residents in frustration ask, “Why can’t the police just take them away?”

The answer? There is a law that prohibits police from doing that.

But residents don’t have to feel frustrated, they can support new legislation to get the laws changed.

The CARE Court proposal is working its way through the legislative process as SB 1338 (Umberg and Eggman), which would enact the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act.  It passed the Senate on a 38-0 vote and now moves to the Assembly.

Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness will hold a 7 p.m. July 25 Zoom meeting with speakers Judge Stephen V. Manley (Santa Clara County Superior Court) and Sheila Carter, (NAMI Westside L.A. Board of Directors). The meeting topic will be  “A New Approach to Helping the Most Severely Ill and Vulnerable.”  Manley and Carter will explain what the CARE Act could accomplish.

Judge Manley presides over all misdemeanor and felony drug and mental health cases in Santa Clara County and has for 25 years championed the development of special court programs aimed at getting offenders with mental illness, substance use disorders, or both, into treatment and out of jail.

Carter is an advocate for policy and practices on behalf of those with serious mental illness, an advocacy that is grounded in her own lived experience with an adult son and daughter both diagnosed with mental illness.

CARE would focus is on those with schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic disorders, which is estimated to be from 7,000 to 12,000 Californians. The CARE Court approach connects a person in crisis with a court-ordered CARE Plan and a supportive team of care providers and family members for up to 12 months, with the possibility to extend for an additional 12 months. The Care Plan ensures that support and services are coordinated and focused on the individual needs of the person it is designed to serve.

“Ruby” has lived at the library for several years, even though she had been housed at an apartment in Santa Monica.

CARE Court steps:

  1. Referral: An individual with untreated schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic disorder who lacks medical decision-making capacity may be referred to the Court by a family member, behavioral health provider, first responder, or other approved party to provide care and prevent institutionalization.
  2. Clinical Evaluation: Based upon the petition, the Civil Court orders a clinical evaluation and appoints a public defender and a supporter to communicate with the individual and support him/her in decision-making. The Court reviews the clinical evaluation of the individual and, if the individual meets the criteria, the Court orders the development of a Care Plan.
  3. Care Plan: A Care Plan is developed by county behavioral health, the individual, and supporter that includes behavioral health treatment, stabilization medication, and a housing plan. The Court reviews and adopts the Care Plan with both the individual and county behavioral health as parties to the court order for up to 12 months. (The plan can be renewed for an additional 12 months.)
  4. Support: The county behavioral health care team, with the individual and supporter, begin treatment and regularly review and update the Care Plan, as needed, as well as a Mental Health Advance Directive. The Court provides accountability with status hearings, for up to a second 12 months, as needed.
  5. Success: Successful completion of the Care Plan and graduation is approved by the Court. Following graduation, the individual remains eligible for ongoing treatment, supportive services, and housing in the community to support long term recovery. Mental Health Advance Directive is in place for any future crises.


To register:

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3 Responses to Dealing with the Mentally Ill Homeless

  1. andrew cohen says:


  2. Deborah Shishko says:

    Looking forward to this.

  3. Neven Karlovac says:

    Good to hear that something is being done and I am sure that this proposal has many good features. However, it seems to lack one essential provision: mandatory confinement. Nobody likes the idea and there are obvious dangers of abuse but I am afraid that it is absolutely necessary in order to address at least a significant part of this problem. At the very least, the provision should also make it mandatory for mental health institutions to accept patients into confinement at their own request: there are well-documented cases where patients felt the urge to violence coming and requested to be confined only to be refused and subsequently commit murders they feared they might do!?!

    I feel some pangs of conscience about this situation. I participated as an enthusiastic volunteer in the mental health reform movement in the 1970s but I think now that it was the proverbial road to hell paved with good intentions.

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