Bill to Expand Conservatorship Laws to Help Chronically Homeless with Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues Passes Committee with Unanimous & Bipartisan Support
Sacramento – A bill by Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) to expand and strengthen California conservatorship laws passed its second Senate policy committee yesterday with unanimous and bipartisan support.
Senate Bill 1045 establishes a five-year pilot program that authorizes San Francisco and Los Angeles Counties to opt-in to creating a new conservatorship focused on chronically homeless individuals who suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues, and who cannot care for themselves. SB 1045 now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“California cities have a crisis on our streets, with chronically homeless individuals suffering from mental illness and drug addiction,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “It’s not progressive or humane to let those who are incapable of making decisions for themselves die on our streets. SB 1045 gives counties one more tool to use to help those who cannot help themselves, and get them into housing and services. The bill also ensures full due process for those the county seeks to conserve, as well as strong safeguards including review and reassessment by the county to ensure that the law is being used legally and correctly.”
SB 1045 passed the Senate Public Safety Committee by a vote of 7-0 with both Democrats and Republicans in support. It passed the Judiciary Committee last week by a vote of 6-1. SB 1045 is sponsored by San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell and the City and County of San Francisco, and is also supported by the Cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica. SB 1045 is co-authored by Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), and Assemblymember Philip Chen (R-Brea.)
“It is not humane to continue to let people suffer and potentially die on our streets who clearly cannot help themselves,” said Mayor Mark Farrell. “I am supporting Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 1045 because I know it will save lives and address the crisis we see on our streets every day.”
SB 1045 creates a five year pilot program that focuses on providing housing with wraparound services to care for the most vulnerable Californians living on the streets. Under the bill, the County Board of Supervisors would have to opt-in to the program by a vote via resolution, as is the case under Laura’s Law.
Once the county votes to establish the program, in order for an individual to be considered for conservatorship, an individual must be chronically homelessness, suffering from serious mental illness and substance abuse disorder, such that those co-occurring conditions have resulted in frequent visits to the emergency room, being frequently detained by the police under a 5150 hold, or frequently being held for psychiatric evaluation and treatment.
Under the bill, the director of a county mental health or social services department, the county sheriff, the director of a hospital or emergency health facility or the head of a facility providing intense services can recommend to the county that a person be conserved. If the county officer investigating conservatorship agrees with that recommendation, a judge will consider the case of the person to be conserved and only order conservatorship if there are no viable alternatives to caring for that individual.
The conservatorship, which would require supportive housing with wraparound services, would end after a year. During that year, the conservatee could petition for a hearing on their status once a month, which would allow them the opportunity to be released from the conservatorship prior to the full year.
The bill also requires San Francisco and Los Angeles Counties to form working groups to assess the effectiveness of this new conservatorship, including collecting data that would be used to determine the effectiveness of the 5 year pilot program.