Conservatorship Is Coming to California: Gov. Newsom Signs Bill Transforming California’s Mental Health Care System

Californians with relatives suffering from severe mental illness or chronic substance use disorders, including alcoholism, will soon be able to make decisions on their behalf after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 43into law Oct. 10. 

In some instances, conservatorship may be assigned to county health departments, courts or other third parties to temporarily direct the care of affected persons, connect them to treatment or involuntarily detain them.  

“California is undertaking a major overhaul of our mental health system,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement. “The mental health crisis affects us all, and people who need the most help have been too often overlooked. We are working to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and that people get the help they need and the respect they deserve.”

Under current law, the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS Act), which former Gov. Ronald Reagan signed into law in1967, authorities may serve as conservators for no more than 72 hours. 

“The LPS Act was adopted at a time when public policy was essentially to warehouse people that were mentally ill. The Act established strong and important civil liberty protections to ensure individual rights are protected,” said Sen. Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), who authored the bill. “Like many things that are decades old, it has long been time to make some adjustments to the law to address the realities we are seeing today on our streets.”

While some advocates are applauding the passage of SB 43, some disability rights groups are concerned that authorities may abuse the rights of patients. 

SB 43 will take effect Jan. 1, 2024.