San Jose Starts Massive Sweep of Homeless Encampment Near Airport

Robert Handa, NBC Bay Area

02 de septiembre de 2022

After months of delays and debates, San Jose launched a massive month-long sweep of a sprawling homeless encampment near the airport Thursday.

It was a jarring site for the 200 or so unhoused people in the encampment around Guadalupe Gardens, as crews plowed through the targeted first zone, near Hedding Street, of the 40-acre site.

The September sweep is necessary for the city to meet an FAA mandated deadline to move the encampment away from the airport, or risk losing federal funding.

“We have 40 RVs that we moved out to the baseball field across the street, that has relieved some of the stress, but there are still people here,” said unhoused advocate Gail Osmer.

One is Carlos Rampolla, who has an old yellow school bus with seven dogs which hauls a mobile home.

He said it hasn’t been paradise, but he’s grateful.

“There’s a lot of noise because of the airplanes, so it’s kind of stressful,” said Rampolla. “But, well, at least I got to stay here.”

Advocates had hoped to delay the sweep because of the heat wave but city officials said they will pause abatement during peak heat days topping 88 degrees starting Saturday but will resume Wednesday.

By late afternoon, Rampolla was able to move to the far field away from the sweep.

The postal worker said the time at the encampment gave him a chance to save money.

“I was able to buy a lot here in California,” he said. “So I’m planning to build a house there.”

But advocates say Rampolla is the exception.

“Where are these 60 to 70 people living in an RV to go? There’s no plan,” said Osmer.

The city of San Jose, and Santa Clara County, as well as non profits were out there Thursday, trying to help people with their plans as they get pushed more and more into a corner.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de NBC Bay Area

Handa, R. (2022). San Jose Starts Massive Sweep of Homeless Encampment Near Airport. NBC Bay Area. Recuperado el 02 de septiembre de 2022, de https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/south-bay/san-jose-homeless-encampment-sweep/2992800/

California CARE Court bill heads to Newsom

Madison Hirneisein, The Center Square

31 de agosto de 2022

A man stands next to tents on a sidewalk in San Francisco, Tuesday, April 21, 2020.Jeff Chiu / AP

(The Center Square) – California lawmakers gave the final stamp of approval Wednesday to a bill backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that provides court-ordered treatment plans and supportive services for people on the schizophrenia spectrum or with psychotic disorders.

The bill, which establishes the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Act, received broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature, passing in a 62-2 vote in the Assembly and unanimously in the Senate. The bill now heads to Newsom’s desk.

“Today’s passage of the CARE Act means hope for thousands of Californians suffering from severe forms of mental illness who too often languish on our streets without the treatment they desperately need and deserve,” Newsom said in a statement Wednesday.

Backed by cities across the state and strongly opposed by disability rights advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union, the bill would let a person petition for a court-ordered plan that could include behavioral health care, medication, and housing. The petition triggers hearings to develop a treatment plan.

Adults experiencing a severe mental illness like schizophrenia and are either “unlikely to survive safely” without supervision or have a condition that requires support to prevent deterioration could qualify for the program. The CARE plan could last for up to two years, providing services like medication and treatment.

Newsom and others have touted the measure as a way to break the cycle of homelessness and incarceration among people with severe mental problems.

The measure has faced strong opposition from groups within California and across the nation who fear it will result in coerced treatment that would take away a person’s right to make their own care decisions.

Eric Harris, the director of Public Policy with Disability Rights California, told The Center Square Wednesday that the organization still has major concerns about the bill and is “disappointed” in its passage on Wednesday. 

“Forced treatment and not providing guaranteed housing is not going to be beneficial to a lot of these people,” Harris said. “We believe that voluntary treatment options that are robust and guarantee accessible, affordable housing is going to bring out the best results and have people who want to engage in this type of process.”

Harris said the bill was constructed without input from a “large number of disability leaders,” noting that leaders at Disability Rights California “weren’t consulted at all.”

The bill received several amendments in its final days in the Legislature, including one that phases in implementation. The counties of Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and the city and county of San Francisco must implement the program by Oct. 1, 2023. The rest of the state has until Dec. 1, 2024.

Other amendments require funding from the Department of Health Care Services and substitute the director of county behavioral health as the petitioner if someone other than the director petitions the court.

As the bill wound its way through the Legislature, lawmakers raised concerns about how the program would be funded and whether counties would have the staffing to handle the program. In the end, the bill won praise from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for its potential to curb addiction and homelessness.

“This measure, I believe, is the first truly bipartisan attempt to compassionately clear homeless encampments off our streets, sidewalks and highways, to assess the health behavior and needs of homeless individuals and to put together an actual plan to stop the downward spiral that many homeless individuals have so long been on,” Senator Brian Jones, R-Santee, said Wednesday. 

Two lawmakers voted against the measure – Assemblymember Ash Kalra and Mark Stone. In a statement sent to The Center Square, Kalra said he could not support the bill because the program has “missing pieces needed for an effective, sustainable solution.”

“While I echo the urgency to find a solution, if we do not couple permanent housing and wraparound services for our unhoused with severe mental illness, we are setting them up for failure,” Kalra said. 

Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign the legislation.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de The Center Square

Hirneisen, M. (2022). California CARE Court bill heads to Newsom. The Center Square. Recuperado el 01 de septiembre de 2022, de https://www.thecentersquare.com/california/california-care-court-bill-heads-to-newsom/article_f6f2586e-298c-11ed-bacd-338ce7bcf81f.html

CA governor’s mental health care plan for homeless advances

JANIE HAR and ADAM BEAM, AP NEWS

31 de agosto de 2022

FILE – Tents line the streets of the Skid Row area of Los Angeles Friday, July 22, 2022. California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to steer homeless people with severe mental disorders into treatment was approved by the state Assembly on Tuesday, Aug. 30. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s controversial proposal to steer homeless people with severe mental disorders into treatment cleared the state Assembly on Tuesday and is on its way to becoming law despite objections from civil liberties advocates who fear it will be used to force unhoused residents into care they don’t want.

Homeless people with severe mental health disorders often cycle among the streets, jail and hospitals, with no one entity responsible for their well-being. They can be held against their will at a psychiatric hospital for up to 72 hours. But once stabilized, a person who agrees to continue taking medication and follow up on services must be released.

The bill the state Assembly approved on Tuesday by a 60-2 vote would require counties to set up a special civil court to process petitions brought by family, first responders and others on behalf of an individual diagnosed with specified disorders, such as schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

The court could order a plan lasting up to 12 months, and renewable for another 12 months. An individual facing a criminal charge could avoid punishment by completing a mental health treatment plan. A person who does not agree to a treatment plan could be compelled into it. Newsom has said he hopes these courts catch people before they fall into the criminal court system.

The bill represents a new approach for California to address homelessness, a crisis the state has struggled with for decades. The state government spends billions of dollars on the issue each year, only for the public to perceive little progress on the streets.

“I believe that this bill is an opportunity for us to write a new narrative,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson, a Democrat who voted for the bill.

The bill has now passed both houses of the state Legislature and needs one more vote in the state Senate before it will go to Newsom’s desk. Newsom has until the end of September to sign it into law.

The proposal had broad support from lawmakers who said it was clear California had to do something about the mental health crisis visible along highways and in city streets. Supporters relayed harrowing tales of watching loved ones cycle in and out of temporary psychiatric holds, without a mechanism to stabilize them in a long-term treatment plan.

Republican Assemblymember Suzette Martinez Valladares said her cousin, a Vietnam War veteran, had been living on the streets in a homeless camp before his death.

“I wish that my family had the tools that this bill is going to bring forward so that he might still be alive and with us,” she said. “This is going to save lives. It’s about time.”

Critics of the legislation have maintained that the state lacks enough homes, treatment beds, outreach workers and therapists to care for those who want help, never mind people compelled to take it. They say that people who choose to accept treatment are much more likely to succeed than those coerced into it.

“At what point does compassion end and our desire to just get people off the streets and out of our public sight begins?” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat who said he reluctantly supported the bill on Tuesday. “I don’t think this is a great bill. But it seems to be the best idea that we have at this point to try to improve a godawful situation.”

The bill says Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne counties must establish courts by Oct. 1, 2023, with the remainder by Dec. 1, 2024.

Courts could fine counties up to $1,000 a day for non-compliance, which counties believe is unfair if they don’t have enough support from the state in the way of housing and behavioral health workers.

“There will be no perfect solution to this problem. But this is better than doing nothing and it is too easy in a democracy to kick a problem down the road and do nothing,” said Assemblymember Steve Bennett, a Democrat who voted for the bill.

___

Har reported from San Francisco.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de AP NEWS

Har, J. & Beam, A. (2022). CA governor’s mental health care plan for homeless advances. AP NEWS. Recuperado el 31 de agosto de 2022, de https://apnews.com/article/health-california-gavin-newsom-mental-government-and-politics-c52069d7e48de92adf09b783b36bbaee

CARE Court: Can California counties make it work?

Jocelyn Wiener and Manuela Tobias, MindSite News

21 de julio de 2022

California Gov. Gavin Newsom tours a patient’s room at Project 180 in Los Angeles on March 10, 2022, the week after proposing a plan to force homeless people with severe mental health and addiction disorders into treatment. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

In early March, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a controversial proposal to compel people with serious mental health issues into care and housing. 

Mental health advocates, mayors and family members who stood alongside him at the press conference at a San Jose behavioral health treatment program heralded the plan, known as CARE Court, as a visionary move.

But some county officials say they were stunned.

“They really sprung it on everybody,” said Farah McDaid Ting, public affairs director at the California State Association of Counties, who said lawmakers didn’t consult or even give her organization a heads-up.

Four months later, the bill to establish CARE Court has sailed through all of its policy committees in the Legislature, secured unanimous approval from the Senate in May and is widely expected to become law later this summer. CARE Court — short for Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Court — has garnered enthusiastic support from leaders of more than 45 cities, many of whom face fiery criticism over their handling of homelessness. Many family members, who for decades have felt stymied by strict eligibility rules for conservatorship, are also celebrating the new plan. 

But county representatives continue to ring alarm bells about their ability to implement the proposal, especially as an aggressive timeline comes into focus. A handful of counties have registered support for the proposal, including Marin, Contra Costa and San Diego.

Many of the counties’ concerns come in the form of questions: Will the necessary housing be available? Where can they find the outreach workers and therapists needed to serve the population, given massive statewide shortages of both? What happens to all the struggling people who want housing and treatment, and already can’t get it?

Disability rights advocates are raising fundamental questions about the very premise of CARE Court: Is it effective to compel people into care? Is involuntary treatment a violation of their civil rights?  

But many of those who support the concept say the practical questions feel especially pressing right now, as the Legislature continues its deliberations. While many details are still in flux, the gist of the proposal remains the same as initially outlined. Anyone from family members to first responders could petition a civil court to create a court-ordered care plan for people who meet specific criteria. These include a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, along with being at risk of harming themselves or others or being unlikely to survive on their own. Participants would receive legal counsel and a range of mental health services, medication and supportive housing. Following a series of check-ins during a yearlong period, the participant could either graduate or be referred to an additional year of treatment. If a person refuses to comply, or “fails out”, they could be considered by the court for conservatorship.  

Conversations about CARE Court have been peppered with frequent references to people living on California’s sidewalks and under freeway overpasses. But the administration hasn’t been clear about how much of a dent the proposal would make in the state’s massive homelessness crisis. Prior to the pandemic, more than 161,000 people in the state were estimated to be homeless on any given night; that number has likely grown since. The administration says the program will serve 7,000 to 12,000 people with the most acute mental health needs. Homelessness isn’t a prerequisite to participate. 

The administration says the proposal represents a crucial step toward addressing one of the state’s great moral and policy failings: the vast ranks of unhoused people languishing with serious mental illness and without care. 

“What CARE Court is saying is we must create a pathway wherein these individuals that live in the shadows and often die in the shadows, become a priority group,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, who has been championing the program on behalf of the Newsom administration.

CARE Court’s supporters say no more time can be wasted. Judge Stephen Manley, who started the state’s first mental health court in Santa Clara County nearly 25 years ago, notes the growing percentage of people in local jails and prisons with serious mental illnesses. Only by mandating that counties prioritize this population, he said, will anything change. 

“People are always telling me it can’t be done,” he said. “To me it is a tragedy that we repeatedly, year after year after year after year, talk about this issue, do nothing, and all these individuals end up in the criminal justice system.”

Is there enough housing or will there be?

Perhaps the most prominent question that has emerged among legislators and advocates is whether there is enough housing available to get the CARE Court program started. 

Short answer: No. 

But the state believes that bringing CARE Court participants to the front of the line, along with making unprecedented investments in housing this year, will allow counties to meet the needs of this population. Opponents fear others awaiting voluntary services will be bumped to the back of the line, leaving their needs to intensify.

“I worry if it houses some but leaves others out, are we just reshuffling things?” said Margot Kushel, director of the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

While the new budget deal includes $65 million this year and $49 million in ongoing annual funding to cover training, court costs and legal representation, counties say the proposal doesn’t include any new funding for housing or services.

Terry Fiscus, a counselor at Turning Point Community Programs, sits in his Sacramento office in on June 23, 2022. Photo: Nina Riggio for CalMatters

“There’s a new door being built onto a small house,” Ting said. “There’s no square footage, there’s no nothing, just a new door. That’s what’s kind of frustrating about the premise.”

The administration points skeptics to a $14 billion multi-year homelessness budget put together before the proposal’s announcement — which includes about $5 billion to build thousands of mental health treatment beds and homeless housing. This year’s budget includes $1.5 billion for interim treatment beds to hold patients over while permanent units come online. In response to counties’ concerns that even the bridge beds won’t be ready in time, the bill’s authors recently said counties would be phased into the program over two years, starting in July 2023. 

Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, the bill’s co-author and a Stockton Democrat, says she believes counties are unhappy with the proposal because it finally holds them to account. It requires that they provide the care and housing a participant needs and if they don’t, face court fines of $1,000 per day. The money, collected by the state treasury, would eventually fund local services for the people CARE Court targets.

“We’re not just saying the person has the obligation to accept, we’re saying the system has the obligation to treat,” Eggman said during a recent hearing.

“I worry if it houses some but leaves others out, are we just reshuffling things?”

ARGOT KUSHEL, DIRECTOR OF THE BENIOFF HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING INITIATIVE AT ZUCKERBERG SAN FRANCISCO GENERAL HOSPITAL AND TRAUMA CENTER

Counties counter that these penalties will only take away from their already limited resources to treat people.

While the bill says a county has to provide services during the program, courts can’t enforce a participant’s post-graduation plans. Advocates worry that without guaranteed housing people will wind up back on the streets, in emergency rooms and county jails.

“We’re going to release them back into the streets but we expect them to continue to adhere to the care plan and continue to be taking medication,” said Shonique Williams, a statewide organizer for Dignity and Power Now, who opposes the proposal. “But they’re going back into survival mode.”

The state doesn’t keep any sort of waitlist or even a count of treatment beds and housing that’s available to people exiting homelessness. As a result, it’s impossible to gauge the exact shortage in each county.

But a state-commissioned report released in January found that more than 80% of counties need more mental health treatment beds and homeless housing. A 2021 study from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank,  showed the state lacks 5,000 psychiatric hospital beds and another 3,000 beds at residential treatment facilities and board-and-care homes. The shortage is most pronounced in the San Joaquin Valley and for patients with additional medical needs.

“There’s a new door being built onto a small house. There’s no square footage, there’s no nothing, just a new door. That’s what’s kind of frustrating about the premise.”

FARAH MCDAID TING, PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR AT THE CALIFORNIA STATE ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES

Michelle Doty Cabrera, executive director of the California Behavioral Health Directors Association, said one recent survey showed counties had 14,000 unhoused individuals with serious mental illnesses voluntarily participating in full service partnership programs. But they couldn’t find housing for more than half of these individuals, in part because many were screened out for reasons related to their mental health conditions, she said.

In Sacramento County, beds are increasingly rare at board-and-care facilities, where residents receive housing, 24-hour care and three daily meals. 

“It is a needle in a haystack right now,” said Terry Fiscus, a behavioral health worker at Turning Point, which contracts with the county.

The less calm and rule-abiding the patient, the less chance they have of getting or keeping a spot, he said. On top of that, facilities have been closing at a rapid clip as housing prices soar and government-set reimbursement rates remain stagnant. 

“There are a lot of people that want to come in all the time. We cannot take them,” said Jeanny Leung, who runs a board-and-care home in Sacramento.

Jeanny Leung, photographed outside of Praise Care Home in Sacramento on Thursday, June 23, 2022. Photo: Nina Riggio for CalMatters

“Squeezing blood from a turnip”

Housing isn’t the only big concern counties are raising. To run, CARE Court requires staff and resources. 

Some counties say they fear that, without new funding, the program will end up draining resources from other populations, potentially including children and youth. 

Cabrera, of the California Behavioral Health Directors Association, uses phrases like “squeezing blood from a turnip” and “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

“​​We’re at our limit in terms of what we can do,” she said. “We need more resources to do more.”

The proposal’s proponents argue that there’s plenty of money to get things up and running. They say county mental health systems have had a huge influx of taxpayer dollars in the past two years, thanks to the Mental Health Services Act, a 1% tax on incomes over a million dollars that was enacted in 2004.

“Our millionaires in California seem to be doing very well for themselves,” said Karen Larsen, CEO of The Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit focusing on mental health policy, which supports the proposal. She notes that revenues from the tax have hit historic highs — they were at more than $4 billion this past year.

For two decades prior to assuming her current role, Larsen served as director of Yolo County’s Health and Human Services Agency. She believes counties can afford the costs of the new program.

“If they can prove they don’t have enough resources, I’d love to see it,” she said.

“Many of our people are only stable because we have someone coming twice a day to deliver their meds and check in with them and make sure their furniture is upright.”

PHEBE BELL, NEVADA COUNTY’S BEHAVIORAL HEALTH DIRECTOR

Phebe Bell, Nevada County’s behavioral health director, said she was, indeed, able to tap the influx of Mental Health Services Act funding to purchase a new house, providing beds for six people who were unhoused. But strict rules often limit what that pot of money can be used for, she said. 

If the county has to pivot to focus on CARE Court mandates, she worries about who won’t be served.

“Many of our people are only stable because we have someone coming twice a day to deliver their meds and check in with them and make sure their furniture is upright,” she said.

When her county examined their full service partnership program, they found more than a third of the 78 people in their program at any given moment were inadequately housed, with many sleeping on the streets. 

“I don’t have a single empty bed in our system of care,” she said. “Who exactly are we incorrectly prioritizing in our work right now?”

Both sides agree on one specific challenge: a massive shortage of mental health providers. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, many counties worried they’d face significant shortfalls and preemptively laid off mental health workers. 

Now, as need surges, staffing has simply not kept pace. Counties are finding themselves losing bidding wars for therapists being courted by everyone from school districts to telehealth start-ups to major providers like Kaiser. Burnout is driving others from the field entirely.

Some counties now face vacancy rates of 30% to 40% in their behavioral health workforce, and many of the nonprofits they contract with are in the same situation, Larsen said.

“I think it’s the biggest issue we face in mental health and substance use right now,” she said.

This year’s budget includes $1.5 billion to build out the state’s entire healthcare workforce, including hundreds of millions that target behavioral health.

The state’s public guardians and conservators have also eyed the CARE Court proposal warily. While they are not officially affected by the proposal, they say they expect the program could lead to a surge in new referrals. 

The programs are already severely underfunded and understaffed, said Scarlet Hughes, executive director of the California State Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians, and Public Conservators. Right now, caseloads hover at 65 to 85 individuals per caseworker, though in some counties they’re as high as 135. That translates into visiting a client every three or four months, she said.

“Any impact to our members is going to be significant because they’re underwater already,” she said.

What’s next?

Questions over implementation, in addition to the ongoing debate over civil liberties, have been woven through CARE Court’s journey from the start. That hasn’t stopped the Legislature from voting overwhelmingly in the bill’s favor. It is expected to easily clear its final hurdles: an appropriations vote later this summer, a floor-wide vote in the Assembly and a signature from the author, the governor himself.

But despite their ongoing questions, counties have conceded that CARE Court is coming whether they like it or not. They know they’re not likely getting any more money for housing and staffing. For now, they’re using the appropriations process to petition for more time and tools to implement the program. 

The administration acknowledges that counties around the state face severe shortages. But it remains committed to the idea of a better way to serve the people who are struggling the most.

“California has done this before,” Ghaly said. “We’ve stepped up for the most vulnerable, the most overlooked many, many times. And we can do it again.”

This story was produced by MindSite News, an independent, nonprofit journalism site focused on mental health.

Wiener, J. & Tobias, M. (2022). CARE Court: Can California counties make it work? Mind Site News. Recuperado el 30 de agosto de 2022, de https://mindsitenews.org/2022/07/21/care-court-can-california-counties-make-it-work/

Housing crisis hits women harder in California, group’s research finds

Anabel Munoz, ABC7

24 de agosto de 2022

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Woman are much more likely than men to struggle with the cost of housing in California, according to a new report.

“It was stunning how extreme the difference is between women and men,” said Nancy Cohen, president of the Gender Equity Policy Institute, which produced the report on housing and gender in California.

Researchers found that 49% of women are “rent-burdened” compared to 43% of men, meaning they spend 30% or more of their income on rent.

“Black women are facing the most acute crisis of affordability,” Cohen said. “Latinos, single mothers and elderly women, particularly those who are living alone, are really struggling to afford housing in our state.”

In Los Angeles County, some of the greatest gaps impact single mothers of color.

In LA County, about 31% of all households spend more than half of their income on rent. For women-led households, it’s about 41%. And for households led by a Black or Latina single mother, it’s 51%.”

The report was conducted at the request of the California Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development.

Cohen cautions that the data was gathered prior to the pandemic and the cost of housing has only risen since then, meaning the gap now could be even higher than what was reported in the study.

“El presente artículo es propiedad de ABC7

Munoz, A. (2022). Housing crisis hits women harder in California, group’s research finds. ABC7. Recuperado el 29 de agosto de 2022, de https://abc7.com/affording-housing-womens-issues-cost-of-living-california-gender-equity/12159267/