Letters to the Editor: Mentally ill people have rights. Don’t force treatment without due process

Governor Gavin Newsom
A proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom would set up special courts for compelling people into mental health treatment and housing.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / Associated Press)

To the editor: There already are ample legal mechanisms available to address mental health issues, not only among the homeless but all those with a major mental illness. The failing has been to adequately fund those services at community mental health centers. (“California judges could order help for homeless Californians under Newsom’s new plan,” March 3)

I welcome the governor’s new awareness that more funding is needed. I am concerned about the approach to criminalize mental health and coerce individuals with impaired cognitive functioning and executive skills, such as making decisions, to comply with forced mental health treatment.

It appears such individuals will “have access to public defenders,” as if this makes everything OK. It doesn’t. (I wonder if there finally will be adequate funding for public defender offices as well.)


Every individual hauled in front of one of these Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment Courts (CARE) must have an assigned attorney to protect their rights under the law. Otherwise we are taking a giant step back to when individuals could be involuntary committed to mental hospitals with no due process protections.

David Middleton, Rancho Mirage

The writer is a retired psychologist who worked in community and correctional mental health.


To the editor: The CARE Court concept outlined in the article is a significant step forward in addressing mental illness.

Several severe mental disorders have as part of their diagnostic criteria an inability to recognize that a disease is present. As a result, the present voluntary model fails. The criterion “threat to self or others” says a life-threatening crisis exists, yet that is for involuntary intervention.

In many other developed countries, trained outreach staff coupled with legally compelled intervention results in a humane social model. The state should follow this path.


Norman Rodewald, Moorpark