Not sure how I feel about this. Yet something has got to be done for the homeless, especially the ones with mental illness.
Then again I’m reminded of that Reagan quote: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
From SF Chronicle: San Francisco Mayor-elect London Breed urged state lawmakers Thursday to approve a bill that she said would give the city more power to help chronically homeless people suffering from mental illness and substance abuse.
In her first trip to the Capitol as mayor-elect, Breed joined state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Supervisor-elect Rafael Mandelman to support a bill, SB1045, that would expand conservatorship laws in San Francisco and Los Angeles County.
“We are talking about people who clearly need help and clearly can’t make good decisions for themselves,” Breed said.
Breed said those include people she has personally attempted to help, such as a homeless man well-known to law enforcement who is schizophrenic and abuses alcohol.
“There is a strong need to do something different that is going to allow us to help an individual like this,” Breed said. “Otherwise, he is going to die on our streets.”
Breed sponsored a resolution before the Board of Supervisors in April to support the measure, but it fell short of passage, with several members of the board’s progressive wing saying they wanted more time to review it.
Wiener said the presence of Breed, a member of the city’s more moderate wing, and Mandelman, considered an ally of progressives, showed there’s broad support in San Francisco for his bill. He noted that it is also backed by Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco.
“We are all in unity,” Wiener said. “The city is in crisis when it comes to homelessness on our streets. People want us to solve the problem, and this is a tool that will help us get severely debilitated people off our streets and into housing and services.”
The bill would allow the Boards of Supervisors in San Francisco and Los Angeles County to create five-year pilot programs that give them more control over their conservatorship rules, including expanding who can be involuntarily helped.
State law now allows county mental health professionals to hospitalize people for 72 hours against their will if they pose a danger to themselves or someone else or are gravely disabled due to mental illness — what is commonly known as a 5150 hold. A county can ask a judge for a 14-day extension to continue intensive treatment and repeat that process every 30 days.
The criteria on who can be stripped of their decision making is strict and often results in chronically homeless, mentally ill and severely drug-addicted people being returned to the streets. Wiener said his bill will apply to only about 1 percent of San Francisco’s homeless population, but that those are the people who cycle from the streets, to jails, to emergency rooms and back to the streets.
City officials said there are 40 to 50 people in San Francisco who fit this description and show no signs of being able to lift themselves out of it. “It’s beyond inhumane to sit back and let these people die when we have the ability to help them,” Wiener said. “Our current conservatorship laws are inadequate.”
The Assembly Judiciary Committee passed the bill Thursday, 9-0. It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which is expected to take up the bill after lawmakers return from summer recess in August. The bill already passed the Senate in a 35-0 vote last month.
“No public policy failure is more obvious, painful and embarrassing to our city than our inability to provide care to so many obviously sick people on our streets and in our public spaces,” Mandelman said.
Opponents of the measure, including the Western Center on Law and Poverty and American Civil Liberties Union, said they worried that the bill would lead to further criminalization of homelessness and that expanding involuntary holds would affront an individual’s civil rights.
Jen Flory of the Western Center on Law and Poverty said the bill is misguided because it fails to address society’s failures that resulted in a person ending up on the streets in the first place.
“Taking away an individual’s freedom, even if for their own safety, is a serious matter in democracy,” Flory said. “We cannot go there if we are not honestly doing everything we can to avoid such situations.”