Bill to Expand Conservatorship Laws to Help the Chronically Homeless with Severe Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders Passes Final Policy Committee

June 28, 2018

Sacramento – Today a bill by Senators Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) to expand and strengthen California conservatorship laws passed its final Assembly policy committee.  Senate Bill 1045 establishes a five year pilot program that authorizes San Francisco and Los Angeles Counties to create a new conservatorship focused on chronically homeless individuals who suffer from mental health and substance use disorders, and who cannot care for themselves.

SB 1045 passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee by a vote of 9-0, after passing the Assembly Health Committee 15-0 on Tuesday.  The bill now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which must pass the bill by the middle of August.  It previously passed the State Senate in May by a vote of 31-0.

“Too many people are suffering and dying on our streets,” said Senator Wiener. “It is beyond inhumane to sit back and let these people die when we have the ability to help them. Our current conservatorship laws are inadequate, which limits our abilities to reach those in need. We have worked closely with advocates and public health officials to craft a bill that contains important checks and balances to protect individuals from being unnecessarily placed in conservatorships, while still allowing us to reach those in desperate need. SB 1045 gives our public health agencies and city departments an additional tool to help get these people housed and into life-saving services. ” 

Joining Senator Wiener to testify in support of SB 1045 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee were San Francisco Mayor-elect London Breed and San Francisco Supervisor-elect Rafael Mandelman. 

“It is heartbreaking and not compassionate to leave those struggling with severe mental illness and substance abuse issues to suffer on our streets,” said Mayor-Elect Breed. “That could be any one of our friends, family members, or even ourselves. This bill is critical to helping us get those struggling on our streets stabilized, healthy, and housed for the long-term.”

SB 1045 creates a five year pilot program that focuses on providing housing with wraparound services to care for the most vulnerable Californians, many of whom are 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 suffering from serious mental illness and substance use disorder, such that those co-occurring conditions have resulted in frequent detentions 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, 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. 

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.)