Big City Mayors Call for Mental Health Reform

California’s Big City Mayors are throwing their support behind an effort to update the state’s conservatorship laws.

SB 43 was authored by Senators Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). It would expand the criteria for conservatorship eligibility by redefining the term “gravely disabled.” Conservatorship petitions could be filed when someone’s mental or physical health puts them at “a substantial risk of serious harm” due to “a mental health disorder or substance abuse disorder.”

“Mental health issues and substance abuse are common reasons Angelenos fall into homelessness and remain unhoused,” said Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, who supports the legislation. “Right now, our city’s largest mental health facility is the Los Angeles County Jail. We cannot solve this crisis until we have an adequate system to help people who are suffering — we must answer with hope.”  

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria relayed the story of a father who has been trying to help his adult son with mental health issues. The son remains "oblivious to his own illness," Gloria said.

Mental health advocates and families have long argued that the criteria set forth by the the 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act is too narrow, focusing solely on one’s ability to seek out food, clothing and shelter. 

“The system that we currently have in place is allowing people to deteriorate and fall apart and ultimately die on our streets,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “Despite what some advocates say, it is not progressive.”  

“We’re still operating on laws that were a good idea at one point in our history and have now become obsolete and a barrier to care versus a protection for people,” added Eggman.

In addition to SB 43, the lawmakers have introduced a bill to create an internet dashboard showing all the psychiatric beds available in the state.