Costa Mesa and the Orange County Health Care Agency are working together in an attempt to help get homeless people who grapple with mental health or substance abuse issues off the streets.
The $4 million partnership comes as OC and a handful of counties in California roll out a new, controversial court program – called CARE court – aimed at getting people off the streets and into mental health or drug treatment facilities.
The partnership, funded through a state grant, is geared toward creating 15 new shelter beds in Costa Mesa, along with supportive services like mental health and addiction treatment at the shelter.
CARE court participants would get priority for the new beds over residents from Costa Mesa or Newport Beach – who share the shelter.
A Statewide Initiative
The grant is part of the Behavioral Health Bridge Housing program – a $1.5 billion state initiative that provides county health agencies funding aimed at helping homeless people wrestling with substance abuse or mental health issues.
The California Department of Health Care Services gave the OC Health Care Agency nearly $32 million for the program, according to the initiative’s website.
Supervisor Katrina Foley said in a Tuesday phone interview the $32 million will fund 130 new beds across Orange County as part of the statewide program.
She said she does not foresee the new beds in Costa Mesa being used entirely by CARE court participants.
“As of last week, we’ve only had nine people participate in CARE court, and many of those are not unhoused,” Foley said.
Foley said a recent survey conducted by the county showed that at least half of homeless people in OC have some form of addiction.
“It is critical for us as a county that we have these kinds of beds available that are for treating people with professional caregivers and helping people to overcome addiction,” she said.
David Duran, a founding member of the People’s Homeless Task Force, said in a Tuesday phone interview that there will be some benefits to the new behavioral health program between the county and Costa Mesa.
“The fact that the county is trying to expand health care coverage is a good thing. I’m not going to say that that shouldn’t be done. It’s very late in coming,” he said in a phone interview. “I am cautiously optimistic.”
Controversial CARE Court Rolls Out
Under CARE court, a host of people like family members, a police officer and public health officials can file a petition for someone they believe is severely suffering from an untreated psychotic disorder, like schizophrenia, to be put in front of a judge for court-ordered treatment.
Although local officials say the program is voluntary, with the case being dismissed if someone doesn’t show up to court.
But civil liberties groups like the ACLU and the Human Rights Watch aren’t so convinced and warn it could lead to conservatorship. .
Meanwhile, Duran expressed worries over CARE court.
“I’m very concerned with CARE court that law enforcement – who frankly this is not what they’re trying to do – get to be the initial decider of who, for example, might be a candidate to have eventually some forced medication or to be subjected to a lot of things against their will,” he said.
Efforts to Keep Homeless People From Dying
The state funding for shelter beds comes after a report earlier this year showed close to 400 homeless people in Orange County died in 2021 living on the streets.
The main cause of death was drug-related.
Fentanyl was a factor in 144 of those deaths.
Meanwhile, officials have been putting more beds in Costa Mesa’s shared homeless shelter with Newport Beach.
Earlier this year, the Costa Mesa City Council voted to increase their shared 72-bed shelter by 16 additional beds, with 11 of those new beds slated for Costa Mesa and 5 for Newport Beach.
The county’s 2022 point in time count shows that there were 208 homeless people in Costa Mesa last year and 150 of them were unsheltered.
In August, the Costa Mesa City Council unanimously voted to submit a joint application with the county to the state to increase their bed capacity and implement a behavioral healthcare program at the shelter.
The program provides ongoing funding for the beds until June 30, 2027.
The city will get about $570,000 a year for the 15 beds specifically from the health care agency through the grant with $38,000 going toward each of the beds, according to a staff report.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
Since you’ve made it this far,
You obviously care about local news and value good journalism. Help us become 100% reader funded with a tax deductible donation. For as little as $5 a month you can help us reach that goal.