California to consider new conservatorship laws

A state lawmaker out of Stockton has garnered the support of the mayors of some of the Bay Area's biggest cities in reforming the state's conservatorship laws.

The aim is to make it easier to force some severely mentally ill or addicted people into treatment when they can't make the decision for themselves. The bill's author says it would broaden the definition of the phrase "gravely disabled" to make sure that those who can't make decisions in their own best interest get the help they need.

Mental health and addiction are crises that impact cities around the Bay Area and up and down the state. Now state Senator Susan Eggman from Stockton has introduced a pair of bills aimed at making it easier to get someone into treatment if it's determined they can't do it for themselves.

"These bills that we're talking about specifically, especially SB 43, is talking about treating someone against their will if need be," said Sen. Eggman.

The bill would broaden the definition of "gravely disabled" to include the inability to provide their own food clothing or shelter; and would ask the courts to weigh whether the individual understands their own illness and can make sound decisions.

Some families of those struggling with mental illness say their family members have been on a proverbial merry-go-round; in and out of treatment.

"I don't want anyone anywhere to experience the suffering that my family has experienced," said mental health reform advocate Teresa Pasquini. "So I'm here today as representative voice of the families of the most severely mentally ill population."

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan is part of the coalition pushing for the new conservatorship law, saying it would be a last resort.

"But for those suffering on our streets, with no ability to provide for themselves suffering from mental illness or addiction we have a moral obligation to demand better from our system and facilitate their recovery," said Mahan.

San Francisco's mayor also voicing her support saying too often the vulnerable are left to languish on her city's streets. The time to act, she says, is now. "So my hope is that these common sense changes to an outdated law will help make a significant difference for those who are struggling in crisis whether they have an advocate or not, the time is now," said Mayor London Breed.

This is not the first attempt to change the state's conservatorship rules. An attempt last year by the same lawmaker died in committee. She says she's hopeful this effort will be successful this time around.