CARE Court to Launch in Los Angeles County Tomorrow
New State-Funded Program Will Provide Treatment and Other Supports to Families and Individuals Struggling with Severe Schizophrenia and Associated Psychotic Disorders
Norwalk, Calif. (November 30, 2023), Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, Fourth District, in collaboration with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (the Court), Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH), and Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office/Independent Defense Counsel Office (IDCO) announced the launch of the state-funded Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment program, better known as CARE Court.
Starting tomorrow, December 1, qualified individuals – such as a family member, spouse, roommate, emergency responder, or licensed medical or mental health professional – will be able to petition the Court for an eligible individual with untreated schizophrenia or other associated psychotic disorders to receive treatment and services to stabilize their symptoms and continue on a path of recovery and well-being.
“I talk to too many families who have struggled to get help for their loved ones with severe mental illness and we see too many people with schizophrenia on the streets. CARE Court is a tool we have been missing in LA County,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. She continued, “Through CARE Court, we will now be better able to support people suffering from untreated schizophrenia and their families who have historically had nowhere else to go.”
LA County CARE Court was initially set to launch in December 2024, but the Court and the County agreed to move the start date up one year to provide early access to this new valuable tool to County residents. This reflects a tremendous amount of work and collaboration between the Court and LA County.
“Implementing CARE Court in Los Angeles will help create change systemically in the lives of individuals who are struggling with mental illness,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Fifth District. “Our courts are an important asset and can be a change agent in the lives of many. By creating this special partnership between the courts and our mental health systems, we are creating a pathway towards healing and rehabilitation.”
The intent of the CARE program is to provide an additional tool to help families and individuals find support for their loved ones. For individuals who qualify and agree to participate in CARE Court, housing options, along with connections to social services, are provided via a CARE Plan.
“CARE Court will help us connect individuals with the highest needs to the care they require. As we continue to grapple with a mental health crisis on our streets, especially on Skid Row and MacArthur Park in my district, CARE Court will be an important tool to address an individual’s need with dignity and respect. I look forward to working with the Department of Mental Health, the Courts, and the Public Defender’s Office on implementing this important initiative,” said Supervisor Solis, First District.
To seek these services, a family member, clinician or other person files what is known as a CARE Act petition for someone who is in need of help. Filing a petition is free. A judge reviews the petition and determines if the person is eligible for the CARE program. Specific eligibility requirements can be found at www.lacourt.org/care.
“CARE Court provides the largest trial court in the nation with an opportunity to maximize the expertise of judicial officers who are dedicated to providing support to individuals suffering from mental health disorders with a forum in which they will feel empowered to succeed and pave the way to leading healthy and stable lives,” Presiding Judge Samantha P. Jessner said. “I would like to thank our partners at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, the Los Angeles County Chief Executive’s Office, the Los Angeles County Public Defender, the Independent Defense Counsel’s Office, and the Board of Supervisors, particularly Supervisor Hahn, for engaging so deeply and collaboratively, enabling the County and the Court to launch CARE Court one year earlier than required so that qualifying individuals can begin receiving the care they need and deserve to stabilize and succeed.”
Rather than cycling through jails and emergency rooms, CARE Court gives vulnerable individuals (and those who care for them) another path to access key services. Participants can receive many kinds of support to promote recovery and well-being, including counseling, medication, and social services. If an individual is accepted into the program, their CARE team of clinicians, case managers and others work with them to develop a plan that will provide services tailored to their needs.
“CARE Court offers people with schizophrenia and other related serious untreated mental health disorders the help they need,” said LACDMH Director Dr. Lisa H. Wong. “It is the latest resource we are offering to put at-risk community members on the path to recovery. Ultimately, our priority is to enable people to heal, live safely in community, and thrive; and our goal is to ensure that there is no wrong door when someone reaches out for help.”
The CARE program is strictly voluntary. Participants cannot be forced to participate in services — including taking medication — against their will and can leave the program at any time. There are no civil or criminal penalties for choosing not to participate in the CARE process or programs. Respondents who qualify for CARE Court services will be provided free legal representation through the Public Defender’s newly formed and separately operated IDCO. The attorneys assigned to CARE Court respondents will provide encouragement to their clients and advocate on their behalf to receive all available services.
“The goal of the CARE program is to provide consistent help and resources to people in the least restrictive way possible,” said Ricardo D. Garcia, LA County Public Defender. “Unlike traditional judicial proceedings that focus on compelling compliance through punishment, CARE Court takes the opposite approach. It creates a specific judicial process to pull together holistic services for respondents while surrounding them with a team of family members and professionals to help them stay on track. We’re delighted that IDCO will play such a key role in this innovative and humane approach.”
CARE Court begins accepting petitions tomorrow, December 1. Petitions can be submitted electronically through any electronic filing service provider listed at www.lacourt.org/division/efiling/civil_providers.aspx, or in person at any location listed at www.lacourt.org/CARE. Individuals who are represented by an attorney must file petitions electronically, while individuals without an attorney may file petitions electronically or in person.
For more information about the services provided by LACDMH, please visit: dmh.lacounty.gov/get-help-now/ or call the toll-free number at 1-800-854-7771, where you can request service referrals, crisis assessments, field-based services and an emotional support warmline. The number is staffed 24/7 and has designated personnel to meet the needs of those who served in the military.
Interested parties can also call or text 988 to connect with someone through the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which provides supports to those who are in crisis or experiencing emotional distress. This service is available 24/7 throughout the U.S. via phone calls, text messaging, or online chat. Finally, you can text ‘LA’ to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor via text message.