LOS ANGELES (June 26, 2019) – Councilmembers José Huizar and David Ryu introduced a resolution 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.
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: at least 30 percent of people experiencing homelessness in the City of Los Angeles suffer from some form of mental illness. The County of Los Angeles oversees Los Angeles’ mental health services.
“It’s no secret that a third of those experiencing homelessness in the City and County deal with mental-health and substance-abuse issues, “said Councilmember Huizar. “By expanding court ordered conservatorships, we can finally get these people the care they need and deserve. The current, vicious, revolving-door system where the same people are shuttled in and out of our jails and hospitals, again and again, 72-hours at a time, is a failed system. These people desperately need true, life-changing assistance.”
“We must recognize that we have an unresolved mental health crisis on our streets, and the status quo which relies far too heavily on our prison system is not working,” Councilmember Ryu said. “I have worked in community mental health care for years, and when we deny proper conservatorship, we are denying proper care. We need more mental health resources and facilities in Los Angeles, but we also need to reform conservatorship law so that we can provide care to those who need it most.”
In 2018, the City supported Senate Bill 1045, state legislation that sets rules for how counties can expandconservatorships 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.
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.
The Huizar/Ryu resolution also calls for a state audit of the conservatorship laws in order to identify ways to improve their implementation.
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.
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