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Reaction To Gov. Newsom Proposal To Force Some Homeless People Into Treatment

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- On the way to a weekly therapy session, there was good news for a Sacramento woman experiencing homelessness: she found out she would be getting housing in the coming weeks. It's news 13 years in the making.

Melody Gibson admitted she hasn't always had support from a therapist, psychiatrist, and other medical professionals who are experts in mental health. When she found the services, like the weekly therapy, she said, "it was like coming out of a coma."

She said she's found the right medication, she has the support of professionals, and for the first time since she began experiencing homelessness, she's has hope. It's why, she said, she believes there need to be more resources for mental health for people in her shoes.

"I think letting people know resources are there and what can actually happen for them is extraordinary," said Gibson.

Gibson smiles as she talks about the services she's found and the hope it's given her in the last few months. On Thursday, she'd heard about Governor Gavin Newsom's announcement on a proposal that would add to state mental health and addiction resources. Is it the answer? She hoped so.

"Knowing that if I'm going through something, that I have somebody to talk to, somebody that remembers me and my problems. I think being homeless, you feel sort of forgotten, so having the comprehensive support feels great," said Gibson.

The proposed plan, called CARE Court, would offer more services to homeless people with severe mental health and addiction disorders, even if they have to be forced into care. Part of the proposal would require every county in California to setup a mental health branch in civil court and provide community-based treatment options.

If a person recommended to the program by family, community social worker, healthcare professional, or first responder, rejects the treatment they could face criminal charges or be held on a psychiatric hold or longer conservatorship. This part, some advocates believe, is not the right answer to address mental health needs statewide.

"But the bottom line is that I think it's misguided. What we really need are the resources, not only our county but up and down the state. To say, 'Okay if you're ready to get treatment for whatever it might be, mental health or substance abuse, then we've got a bed for you.' Right now, those resources don't exist. that's where we lose people," said Bob Erlenbusch, Executive Director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness.

He added: "Bottom line is you're being threatened to going to jail which is counterproductive."

Others with a personal connection, like Doug and Karen Hea, say they aren't convinced court ordered treatment is the solution. In July 2021 they saw a CBS13 report about a man who allegedly made creepy comments about kidnapping children. The man in the report, their son, Matthew Brauer.

Brauer, has been battling mental illness. He's faced his own court-ordered treatment plans, but his parents say, it hasn't worked.

"For our son, he didn't know he had a court date. Who's going to make sure he's taken his meds?" said Karen on Thursday after reading more about the CARE Court proposal.

Karen and Doug haven't seen their son in more than a year and do not know where he is. They say it's been heartbreaking to see how he is living and ultimately, are grieving their child, they say.

"As a parent you want to help your child, you want to take care of your child," said Doug. He added for their son, help hasn't been possible and Doug hopes that the proposal is modified to include long-term treatment plans.

In a call to media before Gov. Newsom's announcement, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency told the Associated Press he expected the program to apply to 7,000 to 12,000 people in California, and not all have to be homeless.

The proposal will head to the state legislature for a vote.

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