Date: Tuesday, October 17
Lecturer: Alex Barnard, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Lecture: Conservatorship: Inside California's System of Coercion and Care for Mental Illness
Is involuntary psychiatric treatment the solution to the intertwined crises of untreated mental illness, homelessness, and addiction? In recent years, politicians and advocates in states like California and New York have sought to expand the use of conservatorships, a legal tool used to force someone deemed “gravely disabled,” or unable to meet their needs for food, clothing, or shelter as a result of mental illness, to take medication and be placed in a locked facility. Drawing on hundreds of interviews with professionals, policy makers, families, and conservators, this talk examines California's conservatorship system, tracing the conservatorship process from the streets where police encounter homeless people in crisis, the locked wards where people receiving treatment are confined, and the courtrooms where judges decide on conservatorship petitions. Professor Barnard will argue that California’s state government has abdicated authority over this system, leaving the question of who receives compassionate care and who faces coercion dependent on the financial incentives of for-profit facilities, the constraints of under resourced clinicians, and the desperate struggles of families to obtain treatment for their loved ones.