CARE Court

Bill and Funding Improve, More Work Needs to Happen Next Year

SB 1338 (Umberg and Eggman) is to the Governor. The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) characterized the final version of the bill as being “in decent shape”. There is more work to do on the CARE Act. CSAP will be at the heart of it.

“Counties recognize the significant changes and initial funding for CARE Court, stand ready to assist in implementation, and call on all levels of government to begin developing a comprehensive system to address homelessness, with clear responsibilities, funding, and accountability for the state, counties, cities, and community partners.”

The distance between what the Governor originally announced on March 3 – requiring these new civil courts to be implemented with no state funding by July 1, 2023 – and the policy and funding within the final two bills is notable. Improvements sought and secured by counties include:

  • Phased-in implementation: SB 1338 now designates a first cohort of seven counties (Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and the City and County of San Francisco)to implement byOctober 1, 2023, with the remaining counties slated to implement by December 1, 2024.
  • Start-Up Funding: AB 179 now includes $57 million in new state funding to address start-up costs. This includes $26 million for the initial cohort of counties and $31 million for all counties to plan and prepare for implementation.
  • Ongoing Funding: SB 1338 includes a statutory commitment that the CARE Act will become operative only upon consultation with county stakeholders, and developing a CARE Act allocation to provide state financial assistance to counties to implement the CARE Court process. We anticipate this process will be developed this fall for inclusion in next year’s budget. The Administration’s acknowledgment that counties require ongoing funding to be successful is a huge win, but much hard work to quantify and secure state funding remains ahead.   
  • Structure: SB 1338 includes many policy amendments suggested by counties, including:
    • lengthening the time for county behavioral health agencies to submit evaluations;
    • providing indemnity to counties for the actions of CARE Court respondents;
    • engaging the presiding judge of a superior court on possible sanctions;
    • ensuring that any fines paid as a result of sanctions are invested back into the sanctioned county for improvement of services, and
    • requiring health care services plans to reimburse counties for member evaluation costs. 

Housing That Heals

CSAP heard from many of you how imperative housing will be relative to CARE Court, so we want to note here that AB 1446 (Stern) has gone to the Governor. This bill would require the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), as the policy of the state, when revising, adopting, or establishing policies, regulations, or grant program criteria, as specified, to ensure that any individual with a severe behavioral health disorder who lacks supportive housing and behavioral health services and is otherwise not living safely in the community receives a range of services. CSAP supports this bill.

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