Orange County Health Care Agency Launches CARE Act to Aid Individuals with Untreated Mental Illness

The OC Health Care Agency (HCA) is set to launch the Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act program in Orange County (OC), making it the first county in California to have such a program. The state’s new initiative seeks to serve individuals battling untreated schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders. Starting October 2, 2023, the CARE Act, a groundbreaking civil process, will begin accepting petitions to provide support and intervention for those in need.

“The OC Board of Supervisors takes pride in pioneering the CARE Act in our county, tailoring its implementation to meet the unique needs of our residents and resources,” said Chairman Donald Wagner, OC Board of Supervisors, District 3. “The collective efforts of the HCA Mental Health and Recovery Services team, the Public Defender, and our courts have forged a clear and compassionate system for those battling severe mental health disorders.”

Designed to empower individuals and their families to access essential resources, services, and urgent intervention, the CARE Act process aims to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who require support and assistance.

“This is a hopeful step forward in our commitment to support individuals struggling with untreated mental illness,” said the HCA’s Chief of Mental Health and Recovery Services, Dr. Veronica Kelley. “By connecting people with a CARE Act plan, we are offering hope and a path toward recovery.”

The program will serve adults aged 18 and older diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders who remain untreated. It allows for court petitions from various stakeholders, including family members, the county, tribal jurisdictions, and community professionals who have firsthand knowledge of the individual’s condition.

“The CARE Act program aligns with our mission of collaborating with our community and promoting well-being,” said Judge Maria Hernandez, who will be one of the presiding judges for the program. “It provides a structured framework to ensure that individuals with mental illness receive the support they need with a team to help them.”

Requesters can visit any OC Court to file a petition, provided that the respondent is an Orange County resident. Activating a case requires a completed petition (CARE-100 form) and the necessary documentation, which includes a Mental Health Declaration from a licensed behavioral health provider or evidence of recent intensive treatment.

“We are dedicated to ensuring that respondents have access to legal counsel and are actively engaged in decision-making throughout the CARE Act program,” said Martin Schwarz, Public Defender for Orange County. “This balance between support and individual liberties is vital.”

The CARE Act program adds another approach to the available toolbox of ways to support mental wellness in Orange County. Its comprehensive method intends to provide a lifeline for those who have struggled without the support they need.