Mental Health

Newsom says progress is steady with California's mental health court

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Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said slow but steady progress has been made with the state's mental health court, a pilot program that launched in October.

The goal of the unique court is to provide alternatives to incarceration for people with significant mental health issues.

San Francisco is one of seven counties that rolled out CARE court a couple of months ago. It has been seen by families of people diagnosed with severe mental health illness as a glimmer of hope because it would allow them to petition the court for treatment for their loved ones.

Critics however blasted the Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment program as ineffective, given its specific requirements and possible coercion of treatment.

The Santa Clara County Mental Health Treatment Court has been around for many years, and those who have to face Judge Stephen Manley praise him for how he handles the cases.

“He gave me a lot of resources, a lot of programs to keep following, to go through, and I did it," Jerry Reed of San Jose said. "He’s good. He helped me."

Manley has run the county's mental health treatment court for more than two decades.

"The Santa Clara County Mental Health Treatment Court system, in particular, Judge Manley, is a beacon of hope for the other jurisdictions," legal analyst Steven Clark said.

Clark has had numerous clients referred to mental health court. The court includes almost a dozen clinicians and two psychiatrists who evaluate the needs and issues surrounding each defendant, from housing to addiction to other health care issues.

It's almost the same model that Newsom pushed Friday.

“It is critical that we now focus our efforts on what's happening in the cities and counties, particularly the counties as it relates to mental health, balanced health," he said.

Seven pilot counties are following the care court model, with the rest of the state scheduled to come online by the end of next year.

“I think what you’ll see is Gov. Newsom will look at Santa Clara County as a model that needs to be incorporated with this new care court that Gov. Newsom wants to put in statewide," Clark said.

Reed said he owes his wellness to Manley and his court, and he applauds Newsom's plan.

"That’s good. They should do it cause a lot of people need the help, man, a lot of mental health," he said.

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