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San Diego leaders urge Newsom to sign bill expanding conservatorship to help homeless

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SAN DIEGO — Several local policymakers and community members are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign Senate Bill 43 into law, which would reform California’s conservatorship laws.

Supporters of the bill believe this would be a key to addressing homelessness.

“I believe strongly California must do more on mental health, it’s a crisis that is ever present and ever visible,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said. “We see it absolutely every single day in the streets across our city, across the state, across our country, homeless individuals desperately in need of intervention and access to care.”

According to supporters, the current conservatorship has not been updated for nearly 60 years and the current law only allows a conservatorship to be used when someone cannot provide for their food, shelter or clothing.

Senate Bill 43 would expand conservatorship laws to include situations when people can’t manager their medical care or their personal safety, and add substance-use disorders and mental illness as applicable conditions for a conservatorship.

“The governor has the opportunity to bring our conservatorship laws into the 21st century and get help to those who so desperately need it by signing Senate Bill 43,” Gloria urged during a press conference Thursday morning.

But not everyone is on board.

“SB43 is very problematic,” said Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services. “Before we take away somebody’s rights we need to make sure that we have behavioral health services that are accessible, trauma-informed and available to all people.”

“The status quo is incarceration, homelessness and death, it is not humane to leave people to suffer and die on the streets,” said Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (District 76).

Gloria said the conservatorship is not for everyone, but believes it is ideal for parents, such as Anita Fisher, who has a son who has been living with a mental illness and substance use disorder for decades.

“Despite repeated calls and incidents that led to him cycling between the streets, jails and prisons, the state laws and our behavioral health system didn’t seem to deem him sick enough,” said Anita Fisher, a mother, San Diego resident and supporter of SB 43. “Voluntary treatment is best, but if people are deteriorating on the streets and they are not capable of seeking treatment, families should be able to compel care rather than stand by helpless as their loved ones suffer.” 

The bill has passed the state legislature and is on the governor’s desk.

Newsom has until Oct. 14 to sign the bill into law.

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