Program aims to help mentally ill homeless

An escalated effort to funnel chronic alcoholics and mentally ill people living on The City’s streets could soon find at least 200 newly-chosen homeless persons with a court-appointed legal guardian.

Nearly 1,000 “gravely disabled due to mental illness” people — a majority of which are under the age of 60 and came from the streets, according Ann Hinton, the director of Aging and Adult Services, the department overseeing the program — are already enrolled in the local conservatorship program.

San Francisco’s conservatorship program has two branches, one in which a person has no hope of recovering so a conservator is authorized to make health and financial decisions for a person, said Hinton. The other is the larger program which oversees a person’s mental care.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who has made reducing the numbers of homeless persons on The City’s streets a focus of his administration, said entering into a conservatorship was like a family intervention to help someone straighten out their lives.

“They need not just the carrot but they need the stick,” Newsom told The Examiner.

Homeless outreach teams have already been identifying individuals for the program this year, but at least 200 individuals living on the streets could benefit from the program, said Dariush Kayhan, the homelessness policy director for The City.

A mentally ill individual ends up in the program typically after being hospitalized, and through a series of assessments by doctors, psychiatrists and clinicians, a recommendation is made to a judge who then decides whether a conservator is granted to the individual. The conservator can require medications, treatments or entrance into a patient facility.

Every year, the individual’s case is reviewed to determine whether the conservator’s authority should be dissolved, Hinton said.

Belinda Lyons, the executive director of the nonprofit Mental Health Association of San Francisco, called the move “positive.”

Involuntary treatment, however, is an option that’s not as preferable as reaching people “before they get to that place of being gravely disabled,” Lyons said. “Our experience is that people who need and want and are banging the door down voluntarily are not getting [services],” she said.

New efforts are under way to move people from the street into services and programs designed to get them back on their feet, such as the Community Justice Center, which offers “one-stop shopping” for chronic violators of quality-of-life crimes who can have their day in court and also find appropriate social services in the same building.

dsmith@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

Telling teachers their hopes and dreams can keep troubled students from returning to jail. (Photo by Julie Leopo/EdSource)
Stanford study finds writing teachers a letter can turn around lives of some students

By Carolyn Jones EdSource Formerly incarcerated students who wrote letters to their… Continue reading

San Franciscans are likely to have the opportunity to vote in four different elections in 2022. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Electionpalooza: SF school board recall will kick off a flurry of local races

‘It’s going to be a lot of elections and a lot of decisions for voters to make’

The fate of San Francisco nicotine giant Juul remains to be seen, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to allow certain flavored vape products on the market. <ins>(Jeenah Moon/New York Times)</ins>
How the vape king of teen nicotine addiction rose and fell in San Francisco

‘Hey, Juul, don’t let the door hit you on the way out’

Cabernet sauvignon grapes sat in a container after being crushed at Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena. (Courtesy Smith-Madrone Winery)
San Francisco’s ‘Champagne problems’ — Wine industry suffers supply chain woes

‘Everywhere you turn, things that were easy are no longer easy’

Glasses behind the bar at LUNA in the Mission District on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Glassware is just one of the many things restaurants have had trouble keeping in stock as supply chain problems ripple outward. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF restaurants face product shortages and skyrocketing costs

‘The supply chain crisis has impacted us in almost every way imaginable’

Most Read