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Home / News / Health / Riverside County to launch state mental health program

Riverside County to launch state mental health program

by Staff
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Riverside County will implement a state law that aims to keep mentally ill people out of the penal system and into contact with providers of behavioral health, officials announced Monday.

The Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment, or CARE, Act is set to start in Riverside County on Oct. 2. 

“The CARE Act is a new state law meant to address and treat those with severe mental health disorders by allowing the court to order the county to provide behavioral health treatment in community-based settings,” according to the county. The law “creates a new pathway to deliver mental health and substance use disorder services to the most severely impaired Californians who often suffer homelessness or incarceration without treatment.”

Officials described the CARE approach as “holistic” and “person-centered” that aims to “break the cycle of homelessness and incarceration for these individuals and promote long-term recovery through a court process. This holistic approach seeks to create a safer and healthier community for all residents.”

Riverside County is among the first municipalities to implement CARE Act along with the counties of Glenn, Orange, San Diego, Stanislaus, Tuolumne and San Francisco.

“Riverside County’s commitment to behavioral health treatment is unwavering,” Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chair Kevin Jeffries said in a statement. “While we continue to seek voluntary treatment at all times, this new CARE Court tool may put us in a better position to help more people — those who just may need it the most.”

While the goal of the CARE Act program is to keep those with severe mental health disorders out of jail or more restrictive conservatorships, officials noted that voluntary treatment is always available and preferable to authorities seeking court-ordered treatment options.

“For the last year, county teams and the Superior Court have worked in partnership with state agencies, and the Judicial Council of California, to support the successful implementation of this legislation,” officials said. “The CARE Act is a new civil court process that will be collaborative in nature, whereby multiple agencies will work together to provide personalized treatment plans and community-based support services to those that qualify. In Riverside County, CARE Act cases will be part of the probate division of the Superior Court.”

Individuals can be referred into the CARE ACT program by a variety of people, usually a family member, first responder or service provider, according to the county. The referral and program entry process starts with a call to the Riverside University Health System-Behavior Health CARES Line at 800-499-3008. 

Also, forms called “Petitions to Commence CARE Act Proceedings” can be filed at any Riverside County Court location beginning Oct. 2. Petitions may also be electronically filed free of charge via the court’s eSubmit system: riverside.courts.ca.gov/FormsFiling/ESubmit/esubmit.php

The Riverside County Superior Court offers assistance to CARE Act petitioners, respondents and family members “as they navigate the CARE Act process and will also help connect individuals to other available resources” in the county, officials said.

“The court operates a variety of collaborative court programs in conjunction with county agencies and community-based care providers aimed at addressing the unique needs to specific groups of individuals within our community,” Riverside County Superior Court Presiding Judge Judith C. Clark said in a statement. “The CARE Act is one more way in which the court can help to ensure that eligible individuals are provided with the services and support necessary to address their needs. We look forward to working with each of our collaborative county partners to deliver this program to the Riverside County community.”

CARE Act proceedings will be heard in Department 12 of the Riverside Historic Courthouse, located in Riverside at 4050 Main St., Monday through Friday at 1:30 p.m. Remote appearances are available, and all the proceedings are confidential and not open to the public. 

Riverside County residents who desire more information about the CARE Act can call the court’s Self-Help Legal Services at 951-274-4499 or 760-393-2163 or the county’s CARES Line at 800-499-3008. 

Information on the CARE Court is available on the Riverside University Health System website, ruhealth.org/behavioral-health/care-court.

A video on the CARE Court is available at youtube.com/watch?v=m5AITkUAJdA.

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