About the CARE Act

This guide has information about

  • What the CARE Act is
  • What CARE agreements and CARE plans are
  • CARE Act eligibility requirements for the petitioner and respondent 
  • How to start CARE Act proceedings
  • Where to get help filling out a CARE Act petition
  • Process after filing the petition
  • Petitioner’s rights - What your rights are if you started CARE Act proceedings
  • Respondent’s rights - What your rights are if someone has started CARE Act proceedings for you

What is the CARE Act?

The Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act allows specific people, called “petitioners,” to ask the court to create a voluntary CARE agreement or court-ordered CARE plan for other persons, called "respondents," who have certain untreated severe mental illnesses, specifically schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. A CARE agreement or plan may include treatment, housing support, and other services.

CARE Act proceedings involve assessments and hearings to determine whether the respondent meets eligibility requirements. A county behavioral health agency will be involved in the process. If the person qualifies for CARE, a CARE agreement or plan can be made.

What are CARE agreements and CARE plans?

CARE agreements

A CARE agreement is a voluntary agreement entered into by the respondent and the county behavioral health agency after a court has found that the respondent is eligible for the CARE process. The CARE agreement will include an individualized range of community-based services and support, which can consist of clinical services; behavioral health care; counseling; specialized psychotherapies, programs and treatments; stabilization medications; a housing plan; and other forms of support provided through a local government entity.

CARE plans

A CARE plan is a court-ordered plan that includes the same elements as a CARE agreement. If a CARE agreement is not reached and a clinical evaluation indicates that the respondent meets criteria, the court will order the creation of a CARE plan, which will include an individualized range of community-based services and support. Stabilization medications may only be included in a CARE plan if a court finds that the respondent lacks capacity, but the CARE plan cannot force the respondent to take the stabilization medications.

Who is eligible to participate in the CARE process?

Petitioners and respondents must meet certain criteria to be eligible to participate in the CARE process.

To file a CARE Act petition, a petitioner must be an adult person who falls into at least one of the following categories: 

  • Live with the respondent.
  • Be a spouse or registered domestic partner, parent, sibling, child, or grandparent of the respondent.
  • Be a person who stands in the place of a parent to the respondent.
  • The director of a hospital in which the respondent is or was recently hospitalized.
  • The director of a charitable agency who has within the last 30 days provided or is currently providing behavioral health services to the respondent or in whose institution the respondent resides.
  • A licensed behavioral health professional who is or has supervised the treatment of the respondent for mental illness within the last 30 days.
  • A first responder who has had repeated interactions with the respondent.
  • The public guardian or public conservator of the county where the respondent is, or a private mental health conservator of the respondent.
  • The director of a county behavioral health agency or the adult protective services agency of the county where the respondent resides or is found.
  • A judge of a tribal court located in California or director of a California Indian health services program or behavioral health department.
  • The respondent.


For a CARE Act petition to be considered by a court, the respondent must meet all the eligibility criteria. Homelessness and a diagnosis alone are not enough to meet eligibility requirements. A respondent must meet all following criteria to be eligible for the CARE Act:

  • Be 18 years old or older.
  • Have a diagnosis of schizophrenia spectrum disorder or other psychotic disorder in the same class.
  • Be currently experiencing a mental illness that:
    • is severe in degree and persistent in duration,
    • may cause behavior that interferes substantially with activities of daily living, and
    • may lead to an inability to maintain stable adjustment and independent functioning without treatment, support, and rehabilitation for a long or indefinite period.
  • Not be clinically stabilized in ongoing voluntary treatment.
  • At least one of the following must be true:
    • the respondent is unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision and the respondent's condition is substantially deteriorating, or
    • the respondent needs services and support to prevent a relapse or deterioration that would likely result in grave disability or serious harm to the respondent or others.
  • The respondent's participation in a CARE plan or CARE agreement must:
    • be the least restrictive alternative necessary to ensure the respondent's recovery and stability, and
    • be likely to benefit the respondent.


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