California lawmakers gave final approval late Thursday to a significant overhaul of the state’s landmark 1967 behavioral health law, part of an ongoing effort to address a statewide mental illness crisis made worse by homelessness and illicit drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine.
Senate Bill 43, introduced this year by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), expands the criteria for the detention, treatment and conservatorship of people with severe mental illness. Passed by the Assembly and the Senate, the bill advances to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has until Oct. 14 to sign or veto the measure.
The bill is one of three passed by the Legislature on Thursday night aimed at transforming the behavioral health landscape in California. The others, championed by Newsom, place a measure on the March 2024 ballot to fund an increase in psychiatric beds and services across the state.
All three passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, a rare display of unity on one of California’s most vexing issues. Republicans and Democrats alike spoke of the need for serious changes to get mentally ill Californians the help they need.
Eggman’s bill represents a decades-long legislative effort to amend the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, or LPS, passed when Ronald Reagan was governor. That law said someone could be detained against their will if they are “gravely disabled” or posed a danger to themselves or others.
“This is the year we got there,” said Eggman, who sees SB 43 as one of a series of legislative victories that have transformed mental health care in the state. “These have been the biggest five years for behavioral health in California — if not in the history of the state, then certainly since the 1960s.”
The measure was endorsed by a coalition of mayors, psychiatrists, physicians and the National Alliance on Mental Illness California, which said it provides counties with another tool for addressing an epidemic of mental illness.
It could be implemented county by county starting in January.
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