SACRAMENTO – Today, State Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), the Big City Mayors coalition, NAMI California, the California State Association of Psychiatrists, and the Psychiatric Physicians’ Alliance of California announced the introduction of legislation to overhaul the state’s behavioral health care system.
Senate Bill 43 seeks to reform California’s LPS conservatorship law by updating the criteria for determining if a person is “gravely disabled,” the standard for LPS conservatorship eligibility. Proponents of the legislation argue that the current focus of the LPS Act on the ability to provide for one’s food, clothing, and shelter is inadequate to address the real needs in communities across the state and often leads to criminalization and jail rather than treatment. SB 43 would update the definition of “gravely disabled” to include a new focus on preventing serious physical and mental harm stemming from a person’s inability to provide for their needs for nourishment, personal or medical care, find appropriate shelter, or attend to self-protection or personal safety, due to their mental or substance use disorder.
Senate Bill 363 would establish a real-time, internet-based dashboard to collect, aggregate and display information about the availability of beds in a range of psychiatric and substance abuse facilities. Proponents of the bill argue that access to an up-to-date database of available beds helps providers quickly find and secure treatment for clients in appropriate settings, reducing delays or extended stays in emergency rooms.
“Over the last couple of years we have made critical investments and instituted important changes in our behavioral health laws, including the adoption of better data gathering requirements and, of course, the adoption of the CARE Act. More work remains to be done – and this is the year to finally enact critically needed reforms for the LPS Act. People are suffering needlessly, many on our streets, and we are leaving family members who are seeking help for their loved ones with few tools and little help. It is time to do better,” said Senator Eggman.
Eggman, a clinical social worker, has worked in the past to expand the number of counties offering Assisted Outpatient Treatment and improve full-service partnerships, the wraparound programs that currently serve many Californians with the greatest needs. Past legislative efforts to reform LPS conservatorships have proven challenging, however, in the time since our crisis has only worsened.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“A frustrated San Diego father came to me just days ago and told me about his severely mentally ill son, a college graduate who’s oblivious to his own illness. He has bounced between psychiatric hospitals, become addicted to opiates and is now languishing in jail, not getting the help he needs,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, chair of the Big City Mayors. “This story is far too common in our state, with emergency response becoming the only way people struggling with mental health and addiction can access care. We must act on conservatorship reform for the thousands of families who struggle to get their loved ones life-saving health care. I stand with Senator Eggman and California’s Big City Mayors and wholeheartedly support her efforts to modernize our mental health system.”
“I am proud to stand behind SB 43 and SB 363. Our mental health care system as it stands today allows our most vulnerable friends, loved ones and neighbors to slip through the cracks – often ending up in jail or sleeping on the streets while experiencing profound behavioral health issues,” said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan. “It’s time we stood up for our residents who cannot recognize or accept help, and made it possible for them to get the care they need.”
"It is long past time to improve our conservatorship laws to better address the current mental health and substance use crises we see every day in our cities, and to get people the care they deserve," said San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed. "It is not compassionate to leave people who cannot care of themselves to suffer on our streets and it is inhumane to let our current laws stand. Senator Eggman's legislation will help cities like San Francisco provide care and support to people who are desperately in need of assistance so they can live healthy, fulfilling lives. We are grateful for her leadership and tenacity in continuing to fight to pass these critical reforms."
“In Anaheim and across California, we must enter the next phase of addressing homelessness,” Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said. “We know that too often mental health disorders keep those on the street from getting the help they need. These cases require earlier intervention, better insight into available treatment and a complete look at someone when they enter our court system. We have made great strides in Anaheim and must keep moving forward with compassion as we address the combined tragedies of mental illness and homelessness in the most challenging cases on our streets. To do anything less is inhumane.”
“Our mental health and substance use crises worsen every day, and we need to be using every tool available to us to reverse this trend and save people’s lives,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “It’s neither progressive nor compassionate to sit by while people are dying on our streets due to untreated mental health and addiction disorders. Senator Eggman and I are in lockstep on strengthening our conservatorship laws to better serve those who are too sick to get themselves the care they so desperately need.”
“We cannot continue to let those with serious mental health and substance abuse disorders suffer and deteriorate on our streets. This is not just a housing issue; it is a public health crisis that demands action,” said Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher. “We cannot simply throw billions of dollars at the issue and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We need policy changes to ensure that vulnerable and seriously mentally ill individuals who are incapable of taking care of themselves in the most basic ways receive the help they need.”
“Families are often left feeling helpless and hopeless as their loved ones languish in their illness. Updating our age old LPS Act to provide clarity will get us one step closer to helping our loved ones get the help they need,” said Jessica Cruz, CEO of NAMI California. “Access to treatment is a huge boulder for families and individuals trying to get the help they need for their mental illness. Not having enough psychiatric beds is a struggle for providers, families and the patients. Starting with a statewide bed registry will ensure that we are able to get access to what is available in our area, while also showcasing the desperate need for more beds.”
“Treatments for mental illness can be wonderfully effective, but our laws often prevent us from providing them to individuals who are at mortal risk on our streets. SB 43 will help us provide lifesaving care,” said Ron Thurston, M.D., President of the Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California.
“The California State Association of Psychiatrists is proud to co-sponsor Senator Eggman’s 2023 mental health-related package of bills,” said Emily Wood, M.D. “Appropriate reform of state law is vital to improve the lives of the severely mentally ill in California as well as their families and loved ones. As physicians and behavioral health care providers it is essential that we respect and support our patients’ rights, including the right to receive care.”
Contact: David Stammerjohan