Don’t Force Mental Health Treatment Without Due Process

For the editor: There are already many legal mechanisms available to address mental health issues, not just among the homeless, but anyone with a serious mental illness. The failure has been to adequately fund these services in community mental health centres. (“California judges could order help for homeless Californians under new Newsom plan,” March 3)

I welcome the Governor’s new awareness that more funding is needed. I am concerned about the approach of criminalizing mental health and coercing people with impaired cognitive functioning and executive skills, such as decision-making, into compliance with forced mental health treatment.

It seems that these people will “have access to public defenders”, as if that makes everything OK. This is not the case. (I wonder if there will finally be adequate funding for public defender offices as well.)

Every individual brought before one of these Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) courts must have an appointed attorney to protect their rights under the law. Otherwise, we are taking a giant leap towards when individuals could be involuntarily committed to mental hospitals without due process protections.

David Middleton, Rancho Mirage

The author is a retired psychologist who has worked in community and correctional mental health.

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For the editor: The CARE Court concept described in the article is a significant step forward in the fight against mental illness.

Many serious mental disorders have among their diagnostic criteria an inability to recognize that a disease is present. As a result, the current voluntary model fails. The criterion “threat to self or others” indicates that there is a life-threatening crisis, but it is an involuntary intervention.

In many other developed countries, trained outreach staff combined with legally enforced intervention results in a humane social model. The state should follow this path.

Norman Rodewald, Moorpark

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