ECLECTIC RANT: San Francisco Should Opt-in to the SB-1045 Conservatorship Pilot Program

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday October 13, 2018 - 08:55:00 PM

On September 27, 2018,California Governor Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill-1045 , which creates a five-year pilot program for San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties for a conservatorship program in the Welfare and Institutions Code. 

Current conservatorship, the two sections of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act and probate section provide a procedure to appoint a conservator for people who are "gravely disabled" as result of a serious mental health disorder or an impairment by chronic alcoholism. 

SB-1045 expands the scope of conservatorships to allow housing with wraparound services to the most vulnerable Californians living on the streets. In order to be considered for conservatorship under SB-1045, an individual must be chronically homeless, suffering from serious mental illness and substance use disorder such that those co-occurring conditions have resulted in that individual frequently visiting the emergency room, being frequently detained by police under a Section 5150, or frequently held for psychiatric evaluation and treatment. In short, SB-1045’s aim is to make it easier to help troubled homeless deemed too impaired to care for themselves. 

The San Francisco 2017 Homeless Count & Survey showed a homeless count of 7,499. More than two-thirds of this number (68% or 5,099) reported one or more health conditions. Over half of respondents (53% or 3,974) reported their condition limited their ability to take care of personal matters or to get and keep a job. These conditions include a psychiatric or emotional condition, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a chronic health problem, drug or alcohol abuse, a physical disability, a traumatic brain injury, and an AIDS or HIV related illness. 

Too often, we have a revolving door of homeless, especially the chronically mentally ill. They are picked up off the streets or in Golden Gate Park or at Homeless Connect. The homeless may or may not be placed in a treatment facility, if one is available. Once they complete treatment, they are too often dumped back on the streets with no housing, jobs, money, or followup by a professional case manager. In a short time, these homeless are back on the street. 

While we as a society must safeguard the civil rights of the unfortunate, we also have an obligation to care for those who are unable to care for themselves. SB-1045 provides San Francisco with an additional tool to help these homeless people. 

In order to take part in this program, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors must opt-in to the pilot program. Mayor London Breed is in favor of an opt-in. This pilot program, also called a feasibility study or experimental trial, is a small-scale, short-term experiment that will help to learn how SB-1045 might work permanently throughout California. 

I urge the Board of Supervisors to follow Mayor Breed’s lead.