Senate Bill (“SB”) 43 (Eggman), signed by Governor Newsom on October 10, 2023, and which goes into effect January 1, 2024, updates conservatorship law under the Lanterman-Petris-Short (“LPS”) Act, to help Californians experiencing serious mental illness or severe substance use disorder. Significantly, local governments can develop a multifaceted approach to stop cycles of repeated arrests, psychiatric hospitalizations, homelessness, and even death. Local law enforcement agencies should contact their local county mental health department for purposes of implementing and designing a collaborative program in compliance with SB 43.
SB 43 provides local governments with new tools by expanding the criteria for making a gravely disabled determination to include people who are unable to provide for their personal safety or necessary medical care as it may relate to, food, clothing or shelter, due to either severe substance use disorder or serious mental health illness. Notably, SB 43 maintains the due process protections provided in the LPS Act.
Specifically, local law enforcement agencies can initiate the process by taking into custody gravely disabled Californians for assessment, evaluation, and crisis intervention, or placement for evaluation and treatment in a facility designated by their county mental health department and approved by the State Department of Health Care Services.
Next, the treating physician or the county mental health department can petition a court to appoint a third party (often a family member) to direct the person’s care for a limited time. SB 43 builds on the LPS Act to require a conservatorship investigation as a way of ensuring that any other available alternatives to conservatorship are not suitable for the patient.
Briefly, LPS conservatorship is a form of treatment only used for people who have a mental health disorder so severe that it prevents them from providing for their own basic needs. These people may also pose a public safety risk.
As a safeguard against due process violations, the person for whom conservatorship is being requested has the right under SB 43 to demand a court or jury trial to decide if they are “gravely disabled.” The person must prove that they can survive safely without being forced into a treatment facility.
SB 43 also requires that counties provide the state public health department with local data on conservatorship, including the number of people transferred to mental health facilities, the number of conservatorships established in the county, and patient outcomes.
SB 43 could be implemented as soon as January of 2024 with counties having the option to extend implementation to January 2026.
Cities and counties may want to review their practices and consult with legal counsel to assess the impact on local mental health services or ensure compliance. As always, Aleshire & Wynder is available to assist in navigating these complex issues and developing best practices.
Aleshire & Wynder LLP provides unparalleled legal representation to local communities throughout California. Our attorneys have been loyally serving public agencies for over 35 years. For further information, please contact David Gonzalez at (559) 644-0182 from Aleshire & Wynder, LLP or visit our website awattorneys.com
David Gonzalez is an associate attorney in the Central Valley office. Mr. Gonzalez’s litigation experience focuses on complex civil litigation involving civil rights claims, risk management, and labor and employment issues. He leads at the intersection of social justice and culture change by drawing from his professional, academic, and personal experiences. He has obtained a Senior Certified...