FILE - In this May 9, 2019, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom gestures towards a chart with proposed funding to deal with the state's homelessness as he discusses his revised state budget during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. The governor is calling for better mental health care to help treat the state's large homeless population as he addresses one of the state's most pressing problems in his second State of the State speech to be given Wednesday, Feb. 19. 2020. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California governor: Lower bar for forced mental health care

February 19, 2020 - 2:08 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California should lower the legal bar for providing forced treatment to the mentally ill and building more homeless shelters, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday in his second State of the State address.

He took the unusual step of devoting most of the annual speech to just two related issues: affordable housing shortfalls and homelessness. They have quickly eclipsed the state's other problems since the Democratic governor took office a year ago.

He called it “a disgrace, that the richest state in the richest nation ... is falling so far behind to properly house, heal and humanely treat so many of its own people."

While homeless populations in most states have declined recently, California's jumped 16% last year to about 151,000 people. Meanwhile, a statewide housing shortage has compounded the issue, driving up prices and contributing to more people fleeing California than moving in, the first time in 10 years the state has had a migration loss.

Newsom proposed lowering the threshold for conservatorships for those with mental illnesses, particularly for those experiencing homelessness who turn down medical aid. He said that current laws set a "too high" threshold for compelling individuals to go into community treatment centers.

California must act “within the bounds of deep respect for civil liberties and personal freedoms, but with an equal emphasis on helping people into the life-saving treatment that they need at the precise moment they need it,” he said.

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