State Agrees To Audit Current Conservatorship Laws, Which the Resolution Calls For

LOS ANGELES (July 3, 2019) – The Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution by Councilmembers José Huizar and David Ryu Wednesday calling for much-needed changes in legislation to authorize procedures for the appointment of a conservator for people incapable of caring for themselves due to severe mental illness or substance abuse issues. The Councilmembers first introduced the motion on June 26, 2019.

As homelessness rose 16 percent in the City and 12 percent in the County, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority 2019 Count, one figure has remained consistent: 29 percent of people experiencing homelessness in the City of Los Angeles suffer from serious mental illness and/or substance abuse. The County of Los Angeles oversees Los Angeles’ mental health services.

“We need to continue to shine the light on the critical need to assist those who cannot help themselves because of mental-health and substance-abuse issues,” said Councilmember Huizar. “And with the state agreeing to audit conservatorship laws in counties like Los Angeles, we are one step closer to making real change in our mental health system and giving people the life-changing assistance they deserve.”

“We cannot deny the mental health crisis existing on our streets, and we need the right tools to get people the care they need,” Councilmember Ryu said. “This is not the only piece of the puzzle, but it is a necessary one. I’m glad to see the City stand with conservatorship reform today and move forward on needed solutions.”

In 2018, the City supported Senate Bill 1045, state legislation that sets rules for how counties can expand conservatorships to better meet the needs of the most vulnerable individuals who suffer from chronic homelessness accompanied by severe mental illness, drug addiction, repeated commitments, or exceptionally frequent use of emergency medical services.

The Huizar/Ryu resolution also calls for a state audit of the conservatorship laws in order to identify ways to improve their implementation. On June 28, 2019, state auditors agreed to conduct a review on how counties affected by Senate Bill 1045, including Los Angeles, can improve its implementation.

Given the adoption of Senate Bill 1045, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance on June 4, 2019. Using the framework of SB 1045, it will empower County health officials to allow a limited number of people with mental-health and drug-use problems into treatment. The San Francisco legislation will let courts appoint a public conservator to individuals who have been involuntarily detained for psychiatric hospitalization at least eight times in a year under section 5150 of California’s welfare and institutions code.

In 2018, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution by Councilmembers Huizar, Ryu, Englander and Buscaino calling for an expanded definition of the state’s “gravely disabled” law.

The City, and County, which proposed its own resolution, wanted to allow more people, including those who are incapable of seeking needed medical care, to fall under the rules of gravely disabled.

Unfortunately, Assembly Bill 1971, which was focused on that expansion, died. The state needs to take it up again and adopt this much-needed legislation so that more deserving people can get the assistance they need.

# # #