What cities need to know about the first three months of CARE Court

Jan 17, 2024

By Betsy Montiel, legislative affairs analyst

The lead agency responsible for CARE Court released an implementation update late last year with information for existing and potential stakeholders. The League of California Cities supported CARE Court early on and provided several adopted amendments, such as a phased-in implementation period and opportunities for cities to take part in CARE plan negotiations.

An initial cohort of eight counties — Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and the City and County of San Francisco — had to start implementing the CARE Act by Oct. 1, 2023. Los Angeles implemented a CARE plan on Dec. 1, 2023. The remaining counties must begin implementation by Dec. 1, 2024.

Between October and December, 200 petitions were filed to initiate court-ordered care plans for individuals considered unlikely to safely survive in their communities. However, many individuals seeking help via the program were able to connect with supportive services without a formal petition.

The California Health & Human Services Agency (CalHHS) projects the CARE Court Program will serve over 2,000 individuals by the end of 2024 under current eligibility requirements.

Implementation background and progress

Passed in 2022, CARE Court allows family members, first responders, and licensed behavioral professionals to start court-ordered care plans based on individual behavioral needs. Treatment plans are highly personalized and managed by a community care team, which connects individuals to supportive services and specialized treatment.  

A working group is guiding CARE Court’s implementation through 2024, with a focus on guiding principles and strategic priorities. CalHHS also created three ad hoc subgroups to include participation from key stakeholders, behavioral health experts, and members of the public. The groups also incorporate the perspectives of people with lived experience and families who have suffered alongside a family member dealing with acute behavioral health issues.

Late last year, CalHHS conducted the first round of site visits to the initial eight counties. Staff met with judges and court officials to align data collection protocols. Staff toured residential housing facilities and held discussions on outreach and engagement strategies for the program.

CARE Court resources

The quarterly update also provides a list of resources, including the CARE Data Dictionary, to ensure unified data collection and reporting across CARE counties. From January through March, county behavioral health agencies are responsible for submitting data reports on the program’s implementation.

CalHHS created a dedicated informational website for petitioners, which contains the necessary forms and process overview for submitting a court order. Currently, petitions may not be filed in the remaining counties until the Dec. 1 implementation date.

Cal Cities is committed to supporting programs that provide care to people suffering from severe mental health issues, fostering collaboration between stakeholders, and providing informational resources. For more information — including how to participate — visit the CalHHS CARE Act website, the CARE Act resource center, or email info@care-act.org