CARE Court – A New Mental Health Resource
Fostering Recovery and Empowerment
People in our community experience severe mental illness and may not receive regular help, often resulting in homelessness and substance use. Their loved ones and other caregivers often struggle to find lifesaving support and assistance.
The County of Los Angeles is launching a new, state-funded program called Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court, which helps people with untreated schizophrenia and other associated psychotic disorders receive treatment and services for their health and well-being. Participants can receive many kinds of support to promote their recovery and well-being, which may include counseling, medication, housing options, social services, and others. Rather than cycling through jails and emergency rooms, CARE Court gives vulnerable individuals and those who care for them another path to access key services that can help keep them safe. Family members, roommates, clinicians, and others can petition the court to seek approval for this program.
The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LACDMH) is pleased to offer CARE Court as part of an extended menu of programs to provide mental health assistance for those who need it.
CARE Court is currently accepting petitions (required forms for this process are available on LA Court’s CARE website). Residents and family members can also access other LACDMH programs, services, and resources here, by calling our 24/7 Help Line at (800) 854-7771, or calling/texting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Who is Eligible to Participate?
The CARE program is meant to help adults experiencing specific types of severe, untreated mental illnesses. To be eligible for the CARE program, participants must be:
- 18 years or older
- Diagnosed with schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders
- Currently experiencing behaviors & symptoms associated
- with that severe mental illness
- Not receiving ongoing voluntary treatment
Please take the time to learn about eligibility BEFORE moving forward with the official petition process. Not everyone will qualify for the CARE program. However, the LACDMH provides many additional programs that can help.
What if Someone Isn't Eligible for CARE Court?
If someone you know needs help, there are many resources out there to keep them safe and support their well-being.
- Call or text 988 for the suicide and crisis lifeline for mental health related distress
- Call 1-800-854-7771 (24/7 Help Line) for crisis response teams in the field or mental health resources through the LACDMH.
- Text “LA” to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free crisis support via text message.
Additional resources and helplines are available on the Get Help Now! page.
How Does the CARE Process Work?
STEP ONE – Referral
The process begins when a family member, roommate, clinician, or other eligible person files a CARE Act petition referring someone who needs help to the CARE program.
STEP TWO – Assessment
The court appoints a legal representative and will ask to include a client-chosen supporter to help the potential participant navigate the process. A clinical team will meet with the client in the community to determine whether they are eligible to take part in the CARE program.
STEP THREE – Developing a CARE Plan
If a person is deemed eligible for the CARE program, a CARE team (that may include clinicians, case managers, people with lived experience, and others) works with each participant to create a personalized treatment plan (that can include housing options, medications, counseling, and other services) and help with supportive decision making (which could include topics like a Psychiatric Advance Directive—a legal document that can be used by a person with mental illness to say what their treatment preferences are in case of a crisis). Review hearings will be scheduled periodically to assess the participant’s progress and ensure services are offered quickly.
STEP FOUR – Completion
Participants receive services for up to one year, which the court can renew for an additional year, if needed. At 11 months, CARE Court holds a one-year status hearing to determine whether the plan’s services and resources should be extended for up to 12 more months.
STEP FIVE – Next Steps
The participant can continue with treatment, supportive services, and housing options in the community to support long-term recovery, even after they are no longer a CARE participant. Their supportive-decision-making materials can also stay in place for any future use.
How Can I Start the CARE Court Process?
The process begins when a family member, roommate, clinician, or other eligible person files a CARE Act petition. A judge determines whether the potential participant meets the criteria for the CARE program.
If the participant is accepted into the CARE program, their CARE team works with them to develop a plan that will provide services tailored to their needs. The plan will provide the individual services for up to a year, which can be extended by a year if chosen or needed. Review hearings will be scheduled periodically to assess the progress and ensure services are provided quickly.
To file a petition, please visit the Superior Court Of Los Angeles County CARE Court website at www.lacourt.org/CARE
Who is Involved in Implementing CARE Court?
The successful implementation of CARE Court in Los Angeles County relies on a strong collaboration between stakeholders across our county departments. These partnerships are essential to ensure that individuals receive the necessary supports and services through the entire CARE process. Key partners in implementing CARE Court include:
The court plays a crucial role in overseeing the CARE Court process, from accepting the petitions, scheduling the court dates, approving the Care Agreement/Plan, monitoring the individual’s progress, and encouraging collaboration and compliance with CARE requirements.
Behavioral Health Professionals
Behavioral health and substance use disorder professionals are essential in conducting assessments, attending, and providing support for court updates, developing individualized Care Agreements/Plans, and providing the necessary treatment and support services in the courthouse and the community.
Housing experts help connect individuals with stable and affordable housing options which meet their needs. Stable housing is a critical component of long‑term recovery, wellness, and overall health.
Attorneys represent two members of the CARE process: the client and the county mental health provider. Attorneys are assigned to support individuals as they navigate the court process, ensure their rights are protected, and advocate for their best interest aligned with their expressed wishes. If the court determines an individual is found eligible for Care Court, County Counsel will help LACDMH advocate for services and deliver updates to the court in a timely manner described by statute.
Hospitals and Medical Personnel
Hospitals, other medical facilities, and medical personnel (including EMTs) are important partners in providing acute care for individuals in crisis, as well as ongoing medical care including stabilization medications as outlined by the Care Agreement/Plan.
Municipalities and local government agencies are vital in the implementation of CARE Court by providing resources, coordinating services, and facilitating community activities for individuals in the program. These partnerships are essential in creating a comprehensive and effective network of supports for individuals with severe mental health disorders who struggle with remaining connected to their supports when symptoms make it difficult.
By working together, all the stakeholders can help individuals participating in CARE to support them in their recovery and overall wellbeing. Together we can create healthier communities for everyone in Los Angeles County and beyond.
Additional CARE Court Questions
Is There Any Cost to File a CARE Act Petition or Participate in the CARE Program?
There are no costs to individuals to file a CARE Act petition. For participants, once their CARE plan is developed, a number of factors will be taken into consideration, including their ability to pay, MediCare/Medi-Cal eligibility, and access to private insurance. Participants will need to check with their providers to determine their share of costs. No one will be turned away because of their inability to pay.
Who can file a CARE petition?
Petitioners must be at least 18 years old and related to participant as a:
- Family member, roommate, or legally appointed guardian
- Licensed behavioral health professional who supervised their treatment in the last month
- Representative of a hospital, county behavioral health agency, public or charitable organization or home, California Indian health services program, or tribal behavioral health program who has recently provided services to the participant
- First responder—such as a paramedic, emergency medical technician, homeless outreach worker, mobile crisis response worker, police officer, or firefighter—who has had multiple interactions with the participant
- California tribal court judge
- Member of a county behavioral health, adult protective services or public guardian office
- The potential participant themselves
What resources are available for petitioners?
- Information for Petitioners
- Petition to Commence CARE Act Proceedings (CARE-100) Form
- Superior Court of Los Angeles Self Help Site
- LACDMH Petitioners Guide
What rights do participants have?
The CARE program is strictly voluntary. Its goal is to help residents get the support they need in the least restrictive way possible. It protects participants’ rights to make their own decisions, giving them free legal representation and allowing them to select a supporter who can help them advocate throughout the process. Participants cannot be forced to participate in services against their will (including taking medication) and can leave the program at any time.
What happens if a participant chooses to leave the program without completing their CARE plan?
There are no civil or criminal penalties for choosing not to participate. Participants who choose to leave the program remain eligible for a wide range of other mental health programs. Depending on their individual needs and circumstances, they could also be referred to other resources or programs by LACDMH team members.
How does CARE Court compare to LPS Conservatorship?
The Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act and the CARE Court programs differ fundamentally in their approaches to providing mental health services to populations who are having difficulty in their care due to their mental health conditions.
The LPS Act, enacted in California in 1967, governs involuntary civil commitment to mental health institutions for individuals deemed gravely disabled due to mental disorders. LPS Conservatorship can be long-term and involves restrictive services, with a court‑appointed conservator making decisions for individuals when they’re unable to care for themselves or manage their own financial affairs.
CARE Court was passed in 2022 aiming to provide services as an intervention strategy to avoid more restrictive placements. Instead of substitute decision‑making, the CARE Court model emphasizes self-determination, empowering participants with the tools to make self-directed choices through the help of a CARE Supporter and an attorney representing the client. CARE connects a person with a court-ordered CARE Agreement/Plan for up to 12 months, potentially extendable for another 12 months.
In summary, CARE Court is community-based, advocates for the pursuit of less restrictive care settings, and aims to intervene before individuals end up in a state of severe impairment that might necessitate an investigation for LPS Conservatorship.
What if someone involved with CARE Court is in crisis?
If a person involved with CARE Court is in crisis, they can still go to the hospital for crisis stabilization and treatment. Hopefully, with the support of CARE Court, they are able to remain in the community, but it is still available if needed.
How many individuals are expected to benefit from this program?
Because this is a new program, it will take time for people to understand the eligibility requirements. We hope this program can serve as a vehicle to introduce residents of Los Angeles County to a wide spectrum of programs provided by LACDMH. Ultimately, LACDMH’s goal is to put people on the path of recovery and well-being.
You can learn more about the CARE Court locations and petitioning process by visiting the L.A. Superior Court’s CARE Court website.
If you have additional CARE Court questions not addressed in these materials, contact us by email at CARECourt@dmh.lacounty.gov.
CARE COURT ONLINE RESOURCE CENTER
To make education and outreach resources easily accessible, LACDMH has developed a resource center for LACDMH CARE Court resources, with materials that will be available in English, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer/Cambodian, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. This site will be updated regularly as more content becomes available on and after December 1, 2023.
Access resources to help your community navigate LA County’s CARE Court program at the CARE Court Online Resource Center at lacarecourtresources.org
page last updated 11/28/2023