New Initiative Aims to Provide Help for Untreated Psychotic Disorders in California

A new initiative called CARE Court is set to launch in eight California counties by December, with plans to expand statewide. While controversial, this initiative aims to address the needs of individuals with untreated psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, by providing them with the necessary help and support. Under CARE Court, judges will have the authority to order individuals to receive treatment, and counties will be required to provide the aid.

Anita Fisher, a mental health advocate, is hopeful about the impact of CARE Court. Her son, Pharoh Degree, was diagnosed with schizophrenia 22 years ago and has faced numerous challenges due to lack of treatment. Fisher sees CARE Court as a lifeline for individuals like her son, who often struggle with the constant overthinking and racing thoughts that come with untreated schizophrenia.

Supporters of CARE Court argue that there has been little recourse to ensure individuals with psychotic disorders receive help in the past. Fisher’s attempts to intervene on behalf of her son were ignored, and he became homeless as a result. It was evident to Fisher that her son’s condition was deteriorating when she eventually found him.

While California already has laws in place to assist individuals with severe mental illnesses, critics believe they are insufficient. The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which governs involuntary psychiatric treatment, is seen as a delayed intervention that only offers help in moments of crisis. Similarly, Laura’s Law, which authorizes court-ordered mental health treatment plans, lacks statewide implementation and substantial funding.

CARE Court aims to bridge this gap by providing comprehensive treatment and support to individuals with psychotic disorders. The initiative is not restricted to those experiencing homelessness, but it is estimated that approximately 12,000 people will benefit from CARE Court. Eligibility for CARE Court is limited to individuals aged 18 and older with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. They must also demonstrate a need for supervision to survive safely in the community and be likely to benefit from participating in CARE Court.

While CARE Court offers an opportunity for individuals to receive the help they need, it has faced criticism for potentially coercing individuals into treatment. Critics argue that it may infringe upon civil liberties and strip individuals of their rights. However, supporters of the initiative believe that comprehensive care should be provided to all Californians with mental health disabilities, and they view CARE Court as a step in the right direction.

By investing in programs like CARE Court, California aims to address the pressing issue of untreated psychotic disorders and improve the lives of individuals struggling with mental illness.


1. Who is eligible for CARE Court and how does it work?

To be eligible for CARE Court, individuals must be 18 years or older and have a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. They should also demonstrate a need for supervision to ensure their safety in the community and must be likely to benefit from participating in CARE Court. Referral to CARE Court can be made by a family member, roommate, hospital director, first responder, police officer, or licensed behavioral health professional. A judge reviews the petition and, if deemed likely to meet the required criteria, the individual undergoes a clinical evaluation. Based on the evaluation results, a mental health treatment plan is proposed, including medication, therapy, and housing. The plan is initially effective for one year, with an option to extend it for a second year.

2. What happens if someone refuses treatment in CARE Court?

Individuals participating in CARE Court have the right to refuse treatment without being sent to jail. However, there is a catch. If someone in CARE Court refuses treatment, a judge can refer them for conservatorship, which involves stripping them of certain rights and mandating compliance with treatment.

3. What are the criticisms of CARE Court?

Critics of CARE Court argue that the program is coercive and removes individuals’ choices by forcing treatment upon them. They believe it could lead to the deprivation of civil liberties. Some worry that pressure and coercion may result in individuals complying with treatment that may not effectively meet their needs. Others also question the investment in the new court system instead of comprehensive care services for all Californians with mental health disabilities.