“If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you are going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there”
The 1960s song written by John Phillips of the group ‘The Mamas & the Papas,’ and sung by Scott McKenzie, no longer rings true, as in summertime, the streets are more likely to be crowded by the homeless and the vagrants, curled on the sidewalks forlorn. According to some estimates, the number of the homeless could be anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000. Among these, many lives have been crippled by substance addiction or psychiatric disorders. Further, adding to their woes is the apathy shown by the administration toward such people.
Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco) and Senator Henry Stern (Canoga Park) have come up with a proposal to right the wrongs. This includes expanding the scope of the SB-1045 bill and providing right treatment to homeless people suffering from addiction or psychiatric disorders. Furthermore, the senators also seek to include “gravely disabled” and those with severe cognitive impairments within the ambit of California’s conservatorship laws, currently limited to senior citizens. They also aims to include “frequent fliers.”
In the medical parlance, the term frequent fliers implies people who knock on the doors of the emergency room (ER), hospitals and correctional centers quite regularly. They are often a cause of concern and harried hospital staff members often do not know how to tackle them. Research shows that frequent fliers are more likely to be afflicted with a mental health condition or substance use disorder (SUD) or both.
Because of the nature of their illness, they are prone to anxiety and depression. They also tend to suffer from fits, seizures, hallucinations and delusions. Unable to take care of their myriad concerns, both physical and psychological, they are more likely to seek medical help than others. The concerns of the frequent fliers are truly grave. Taking note of the problem, San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell, who is also sponsoring the current bill, asserted that the needs of the frequent fliers has to be addressed first.
The state’s conservator laws have come in for criticism as well. A conservator is a responsible person appointed by the court to take care of another person who because of the nature of his or her illness is unable to take care of himself or herself. In a press briefing in San Francisco, Senator Wiener said that these laws were inadequate.
Explaining the reason behind the insufficiency of the current conservator laws, he said, it is common for individuals brought to the court to appear clean after 14-day or 72-hour hold, as they have been undergoing treatment while on hold. Therefore, the judge in question has no reason to keep them on hold for longer. Unfortunately, such people could have a critical requirement for guardians, when on their own.
Loopholes in current laws and propositions of the bill
Currently, there is a procedure under the law for appointing a conservator to take care of a person who is “gravely ill” and cannot fend for himself or herself or ensure the basic facilities like food, shelter and clothing. In addition, the law provides for a county public guardian who would conduct an investigation into the appropriateness of the conservator and thereafter submit a report to the court.
The SB 1045 bill highlights the intent of the legislature to enact legislation that would increase the scope of conservatorships to ensure more effective care of the individuals affected by homelessness and comorbid diseases like alcoholism and depression. It also seeks to maintain checks and balances to protect the needs of people with mental illness and avoid their misuse in the hands of a conservator.
In order to ensure this, a suitable legislation transferring the job of overseeing the conservatorships from the district attorney to the city attorney is likely to be introduced.
Effective treatment – a significant tool for homeless
The resolve to introduce changes in the conservatory laws and improve the plight of the homeless and the mentally ill is a bold step. Mental health is one of the most common disorders afflicting Americans today. It is responsible for reduced quality of life by affecting both professional and personal life.
If you know someone suffering from any kind of mental disorder, contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline to access 24/7 mental health treatment. Our trained counselors can help you in identifying the best rehab centers offering comprehensive recovery programs. Call our 24/7 helpline 855-653-8178 or chat online to know more about the finest 24/7 mental health treatment center near you.