Gloria Backs State Behavioral Health Reform Package

Jennifer E. Engen

Mayor Todd Gloria on Monday joined other California mayors in backing a legislative package aimed at improving the state’s behavioral health system and reforming the conservatorship process.

State Sen. Susan Eggman of San Joaquin County has introduced eight bills with goals including increased accountability and tracking of counties’ use of state Mental Health Services Act funds, establishing a web-based dashboard of various mental health beds and a regional process to address service and facility needs.

One of Eggman’s bills would also expand the definition of “gravely disabled” — one of the reasons that a person with a mental illness can be held under the state’s 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act in a conservatorship. Gloria has previously advocated for such changes, arguing the current definition leaves out many vulnerable people in San Diego and across the state.

“Gravely disabled” generally means a person can’t address their need for food, clothing or shelter — though there are many potential caveats to that definition, and street homelessness alone doesn’t qualify someone for a conservatorship. Eggman’s bill would expand the definition to include people who are “unable to provide for the basic needs of personal or medical care or self-protection and safety” as a result of a mental health condition.

“I’m grateful that Sen. Eggman is not shying away from reforming a 1960s era set of legislation,” Gloria said at a Monday press conference. “It is time to update this to match what we’re seeing on our streets — a combination of wealth disparity, rising unaffordability of housing and the injection of opioids and other kinds of drugs that have made this issue that was already bad when the legislature took this up in the 60s but it made it infinitely worse and a part of why urgency is a part of the call today.”

Disability rights and civil liberties advocates, however, are likely to have another take. They have long argued against mandated treatment. Some service providers have also raised concerns about conservatorship and other reforms pushed by Gov. Gavin Newsom they could simply expose the lack of resources and beds for people in crisis.

Eggman and others pledged Monday that the state’s budget surplus and Mental Health Services Act funds gleaned from a 1 percent income tax on millionaires should provide ample resources to ramp up services statewide.

Lisa writes about San Diego city and county governments. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at [email protected]
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