Disability Rights California's Response to Governor Newsom's Framework for CARE Courts

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Disability Rights California's Response to Governor Newsom's Framework for CARE Courts

“I need a community that allows me to be myself and accepts me for where I’m at. I need support, encouragement, and resources so I can thrive. I have been through so many experiences that no one but me knows what is best for my recovery and care.” ‒ Lunyea Willis, Disability Rights California client/member of Mental Health Association of Orange County/homeless advocate.

Coerced treatment is not care, and a treatment plan issued under court order typically is not voluntary for the individual receiving treatment. The people who are most at risk in the Governor’s proposed framework are individuals from low-resource communities, and these individuals are often not consulted when decisionmakers develop policies that affect them. We urge Governor Newsom to ensure that this and other proposals to address homelessness undergo an equity analysis that centers individuals who are at greatest risk of experiencing discrimination, incarceration and coercion before it is finalized.

Governor Newsom’s just-announced CARE Court framework seeks to mandate the provision of critical behavioral health services that play an important role in addressing homelessness. The CARE acronym stands for community assistance, recovery, and empowerment, and Disability Rights California supports all of those goals for Californians with mental health disabilities. However, these services held under a court’s jurisdiction are likely to take on a form of coercion that deprives people with disabilities of their fundamental right to self-determination. We agree with Governor Newsom that California must do better for its unhoused people with mental health disabilities and substance use disorders. California must lead in civil rights, dignity, and provision of services that will truly address the homelessness crisis. Unhoused people with mental health disabilities and substance use disorders need and benefit from voluntary, community-based housing, services and supports. The right to make one’s own decisions about care and treatment is fundamental for all people, regardless of housing status or disability status.

On Thursday, Governor Newsom launched a stakeholder engagement process to discuss his framework for CARE Court, and Disability Rights California will engage in this process with the goal of steering the plan away from forced treatment and toward more robust and reliable voluntary services and supports, including housing.

“On behalf of our clients, drc looks forward to working with Governor Newsom, Secretary Ghaly and their colleagues in the upcoming stakeholder engagement process. We agree with Governor Newsom’s and Secretary Ghaly’s goals of helping people avoid bad outcomes like incarceration, conservatorship, and long-term homelessness, but we believe that the best way to get better outcomes is to provide people with person-centered services that they choose, not to require them to participate in court-ordered care. As we begin the process of refining the Governor’s proposal, we believe it is critical that people with lived experience with mental health disabilities, substance use disorders, and homelessness be included in the process of vetting and developing solutions, as we believe the people closest to the problem will have insights into how to improve their experiences,” said Andrew Imparato, Executive Director of Disability Rights California.

Coerced treatment through a court process is not a “new framework” that the state is unlocking with CARE Court. It has long been the cause of unhoused people cycling in and out of the criminal legal system and mental health institutions, which has, in turn, contributed to the homelessness crisis by causing housing instability. Solving California’s homelessness crisis requires production of affordable housing that does not displace low-income communities. This housing must be provided according to Housing First principles with voluntary, trauma-informed, client-directed supportive services tailored to individual needs.

Lili Graham, Disability Rights California’s Litigation Counsel and a leading advocate for unhoused individuals, stated, “We need consistency of effort in our homeless programs, not an untested program that forces people into the latest homelessness solution. We need permanent affordable housing units and accessible supports offered voluntarily. Without increased investment into these two long-term resources that will ultimately solve homelessness, any intervention is destined to fail.”

View our Town Hall Discussion on
Governor Newsome's Framework for CARE Courts


Disability Rights California (DRC) – Is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of drc is to defend, advance, and strengthen the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.