CARE Court begins this week as a new way to combat mental illness and homelessness

October marks the beginning of CARE Court, a new program pushed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to address the homelessness crisis.

The initiative began as a state Senate bill and was signed into law in September 2022. The bill creates a system that would allow family members, doctors, first responders and others to refer people suffering from schizophrenia and other "psychotic disorders" to treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders. 

The program is starting in only seven counties statewide – Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Francisco – and only one petition has been filed here locally in San Francisco, said Superior Court Judge Michael Begert. 

For San Francisco County, public health officials will make referrals to CARE Court judges that include a report outlining how the person meets the requirements for treatment and what kind of treatment they need. The next step is a hearing. 

"At that point we are trying to start building a relationship with the person so that they will agree to the kind of treatment and care that they need and deserve," Begert told KTVU in an interview. 

Many see the new system as massive step forward toward addressing an expanding homeless population, but some critics see it as a way to force unwanted treatment onto the unhoused.

But Begert said that wouldn't be the case.

"The idea behind this is that the court and the public health officials… and treatment providers will build a relationship with the people who are responding to these petitions and based on that relationship we may be able to get some people to engage in the kind of treatment that they need." 

Watch the full interview regarding the new CARE Court system on the viewer above.