Conservatorship Proposals Raise Concern
Interest in conservatorship issues is high in the Legislature this year, as policymakers and counties seek solutions for those living without shelter. CSAC is working to gain clarification on each of the current conservatorship proposals with an eye on the potential fiscal impacts.
Conservatorship activities are funded solely through County General Fund and handled by each county’s Public Guardian (PG) or Public Conservator (PC). The location and organization of each PG/PA office varies across the state, but it is one of the few service-related county functions that is funded solely through County General Fund.
The proposals in the Legislature take a variety of approaches, but most seek to make it easier to conserve people under the state’s Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS Act). A person can be conserved for a year if a PG/PC recommends and a court agrees that they are gravely disabled due to mental illness. The county conservator is responsible for the conservatee’s care and protection, housing, and health care, including involuntary mental health treatment.
Besides the county cost for conservatorship activities, a dearth of placement options for conservatees remains a top issue and is closely tied with the overall lack of housing for at-risk populations in the state. This supply issue is not addressed by any of the current conservatorship proposals. CSAC is working on a comprehensive housing proposal in response to the homelessness crisis, but creating secure and affordable placement options for conservatees will be a longer-term effort.
CSAC is committed to working with counties and legislators on each of the conservatorship measures outlined below:
AB 1971 (Santiago) is currently a spot bill sponsored by Los Angeles County. The County plans to amend it to expand the current statutory definition of gravely disabled to include a physical health condition. This would allow a county to conserve a person who refuses to seek medical care despite being at risk of harm or death. CSAC Position: Pending
AB 2156 (Chen) is similar to AB 1971 above and would make changes to the definition of gravely disabled to include a physical health condition. The main issue with this bill is that probate conservatorship address physical conditions. By including physical issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure in criterion for LPS conservatorship, this places some individuals as further risk of losing their civil liberties for non mental health issues. It is understood that a mental illness preventing them from making sound medical decisions is the real reason for this law, but it still stands that the criteria should focus on whether the conservatee is GD.
AB 2236 (Maienschein) would clarify that a conservatorship continues until terminated by the death of the conservatee. My question? Is this for probate or LPS? It is already answered in probate code and LPS is only for a year and should remain that way since more rights are lost.
SB 931 (Hertzberg) is sponsored by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. It seeks to clarify that a county conservatorship investigator may begin investigations while a person is in custody in a county jail, which simply affirms what is current law. So why beg the question in the first place? Isn't this what a Murphy conservatorship is?
SB 1045 (Weiner) is sponsored by the City and County of San Francisco. It was amended this week to broaden the scope of who can be conserved, including those with substance use disorders. This is a difficult issue because with substance abuse, the person is making the decision to use. Although drug abuse stems from addiction which in itself can be inherited, the person is intact with reality and can provide for themselves when sober. This also begs the problem of funding. LPS law currently allows alcoholism to be criteria for LPS however, many doctors do not initiate LPS proceedings for alcoholism alone. Adding substance abuse would simply complicate the process and strip the county for funding even more.
SB 1095 (Anderson) would delete a restriction on the court’s ability to order certain revocation matters to the public guardian. This could increase the workload of county PGs and PCs. This addresses the issue with Karriker and Kennebrew which both address whether the public conservator abused its power in regards to initiating an LPS conservatorship.
Juvenile Dependency and