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The Gamut

The Gamut

The Gamut

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CARE courts don’t care for homeless autonomy

On Jan. 26, a coalition of civil and disability rights organizations filed a lawsuit petitioning the California Supreme Court to strike down Senate Bill 1338, also known as the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court Program, arguing that the program would violate due process, equal protection, and autonomy rights.

Signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in Sept. 2022, the bill attempts to address the mental health crisis and homelessness by using the court system to mandate a 12-month personalized care plan for individuals with psychotic disorders, rather than have them on the streets or
in jail cells. In the first phase, seven counties, including Orange County, were selected to implement the experimental framework by Oct. 1, 2023, while the rest of the state would follow suit in the second phase.

Although perhaps well-meaning, the CARE Act is thoughtlessly ambitious — not only does it fail to take into account the sheer amount of resources necessary to implement the changes, but also threatens the autonomy of vulnerable populations.

In an attempt to tackle both homelessness and the management of psychotic disorders, CARE courts overlook the greatest issue surrounding
homelessness in California: there is insufficient housing to meet demand and deep-rooted structural factors, such as single-family zoning policies and local opposition to housing, prevent the construction of homes. California is also a state with high job growth, which entices people to live there and drives housing prices up.

Civil rights and disability groups’ major concern surrounding the CARE courts is that they infringe upon the autonomy of disabled individuals. While courts cannot force individuals against their will, there can be steep consequences for failing to adhere to their treatment plans, including conservatorship — the legal appointment of a guardian to manage the financial affairs or daily life
of another person if they are deemed incapable of doing so themselves. Despite the high requirements for conservatorship, the CARE courts create a direct route for individuals to be stripped of their rights.

Many details will have to go into implementing CARE Court, such as training judges to handle cases pertaining to mental health in a new civic court branch. Additionally, the housing plan remains vague — counties are expected to provide housing options on their own.

Instead, California needs a solution that prioritizes finding permanent
housing for individuals. A housing-first policy recognizes that homeless individuals must first find a stable and safe place to live before seeking
treatment for other issues. Such an approach would result in higher rates of housing retention and lower hospitalization rates for psychiatric disabilities.

Despite well-meaning intentions, the program contains glaring issues with its controversial court-mandated approach to mental disorders and its oversimplified plan. Disabled individuals deserve care that provides them with stability without treading on their rights.

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About the Contributors
Anjali Suva
Anjali Suva, Senior Staff Writer
An empathetic, strong-willed, and charismatic senior, Anjali joined the Gamut to channel her talkative energy and express her opinions through writing. Writing makes her feel unstoppable, especially when she knows that every word she writes and everything she says becomes important on paper. Her favorite subjects being history and English, Anjali enjoys watching history documentaries and reading manga, as well as digital art during her free time. She loves diving into webtoons filled with drama, thriller, and action, making Pyramid Game and The Aftermath her favorites. She can often be seen ranting and fangirling about her favorite characters, Denji from Chainsaw Man, Reagan from Inside Job, and, of course, Suji from “Pyramid Game” Wanting to live this year without any regrets, Anjali hopes to have a memorable first year in Gamut!
Christine Nguyen
Christine Nguyen, Managing Editor
Christine Nguyen is many things: an Oxford Academy senior, the co-president of Creative Writing Club, an enthusiast of naming things after cars, and most importantly, the Gamut’s copy editor and co-A&E editor. Because freshman Christine decided to join the Gamut, today she is able to offer a detail-oriented mindset to push the quality of the newspaper. Not only does Christine hope to boost the standard of work being published, but also her closeness with Gamut staff. With an approachable, “big sister” demeanor, Christine looks forward to getting to know her peers better by checking in with them personally as she looks over their work. Outside of the Gamut, Christine is a connoisseur of the arts. She loves to compose poetry, craft creative prose, sketch, and create visual art. Outside of being human, Christine akins herself to a snail, admiring its resilient nature and cool-looking shell. This year, while Christine may not fulfill her dream of getting a dog named 2021 Cherokee Jeep, she hopes to achieve her other goal of making this year in Gamut a great one.
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CARE courts don’t care for homeless autonomy