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SF Public Defender’s Office Expresses Concern About Passage of SB 43, Which Puts Rights of People who are Mentally Ill at Greater Risk

New law expands the number of individuals who are eligible to be detained or conserved against their will


SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Public Defender’s office expressed strong concern today about SB 43, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law this week, and which will make it easier for the government to detain individuals who are mentally ill in locked facilities against their will. SB 43 (Eggman, D-Stockton) changes state conservatorship law to expand the definition of when a person is “gravely disabled” and can be involuntarily detained and conserved by authorities. San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced an “executive directive” this week to put SB 43 into practice as soon as possible.

“It defies logic that Gov. Newsom has made potentially thousands more individuals with mental illness eligible to be held against their will when our mental health treatment system is already overburdened and unable to care for those who have already been detained or conserved,” said Deputy Public Defender Roberto Evangelista, who manages the SF Public Defender’s Mental Health Unit. “Patients face extensive wait times to access meager and appropriate treatment as it is. Individuals with mental health disabilities need more and better treatment opportunities in the community that support their independence and autonomy, not more confinement.”

The SF Public Defender’s Mental Health Unit represents clients with mental health disabilities in both civil and criminal proceedings, including conservatorship hearings. Conservatorship is a court proceeding in which a judge appoints a third party to direct the psychiatric treatment and finances of someone who has been deemed “gravely disabled.”

“Individuals with mental health disabilities frequently fall through the cracks of our legal system and receive substandard treatment at government facilities rather than appropriate treatment in the community,” said Deputy Public Defender Tal Klement. “SB 43’s expansive and overbroad definition of ‘gravely disabled’ raises serious concerns that more people with mental health disabilities will lose their right to receive treatment in the community and will instead be warehoused in locked institutions in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The state’s mental health treatment infrastructure needs drastic reform. However, bills like SB 43 that make it easier to contravene the ADA and people’s civil rights are misguided. This is a step in the wrong direction.” 



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