STANISLAUS COUNTY — Stanislaus County is gearing up to launch the CARE Court pilot program along with six other California counties. The program has been touted by Gov. Gavin Newsom as a way to solve the state's growing homelessness crisis by providing the most vulnerable mental health access.
The billion-dollar bold proposal is one that each county will be tasked with implementing in their own way, hiring service providers and finding shelter for the homeless who could potentially undergo court-mandated treatment.
Ruben Imperial is Stanislaus County's assistant executive officer and has been part of the planning and implementation process of CARE Court for the local community.
"The focus has been getting treatment centers in place, court services in place, and begin to educate our partners in the community," Imperial said.
The program works by allowing friends, family, behavioral health care workers, first responders or other members of the public to submit a petition for an individual to be evaluated if they believe they are suffering from an untreated mental health disorder. Imperial says his county is proud to be among the first to expand access to life-saving care.
"They have the ability now to petition the court about an individual that is homeless, or other situations in their life where they need treatment, access to treatment," Imperial said. "Their mental illness is such that it's impaired their ability, their decision making."
The idea is to treat the problem before it becomes a danger to someone's life or others.
"If you petition the court, share with them what's happening with the individual, about what's been unfolding, and that judge will have the ability to direct our behavioral health and treatment team to go interview, find, provide support to this individual," Imperial said.
There are still many questions to be answered about the implementation of Care Court on a larger scale. By December 2024, the program will be launched in every county in the state.
Billions of dollars have been allocated to help county leaders hire staffing to provide treatment services to participants, to identify areas that can be used as homeless shelters for the unhoused undergoing treatment, and to ensure enough support to meet the demand of patients the county may be taking on for healthcare treatment.
There's also concern the program could infringe on people's rights by forcing treatment on those who don't want it or disproportionately impact people of color.
"There's been a lot of focus and education and discussion and training that we ensure that we address those issues," Imperial said.
If you want to learn more about Care Court in Stanislaus County, click here.
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