California Mental Health Laws
Guide to Laws Related to Mental Health and Wellbeing in California
Therapy and Other Mental Health Treatment
Who is licensed to counsel or treat people with mental health concerns?
There are various types of licenses for mental health professionals, including licensed professional clinical counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, and psychiatrists. See our Guide to Laws for Mental Health Professionals.
Does health insurance cover mental health treatment?
Generally, under the federal Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover mental health issues. This is known as “mental health parity.”
Are psychedelic or hallucinogenic drugs legalized for mental health purposes?
Psychedelics or hallucinogens are generally illegal to possess or use in California, including for mental health purposes. The only exception is ketamine. See our Guide to Laws about Drugs in California.
Danger to Oneself or Others
What is a ‘5150’? What can be done about someone who is mentally unstable and is a danger to him/herself or other people?
You may have heard of a “5150” psychiatric hold or “involuntary commitment.” This is the law that allows law enforcement to take a person into custody and deliver them to a mental health hospital or other facility for the purpose of determining whether the person is likely to be a danger to himself or others. Such a person can be held against their will for up to 72 hours. If found to be at risk of doing harm, they can be detained for up to 14 days (a “5250” hold).1California Welfare and Institutions Code Sec 5150; 5250
Then there is a court hearing to determine whether the person should continue to be held indefinitely.
Any person with a reasonable belief that another person may hurt or kill themself or someone else may call 911 and request the police to do a 5150 procedure.
The Lanterman-Petris-Short Act provides for the involuntary commitment and treatment of a person who is a danger to themselves or others or who is gravely disabled. “Gravely disabled” is defined as either a condition in which a person, as a result of a mental health disorder, is unable to provide for their basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter or has been found mentally incompetent.
As of October 2023, SB 43 expands the definition of “gravely disabled” to also include a condition in which a person, as a result of a severe substance use disorder, or a co-occurring mental health disorder and a severe substance use disorder, is, in addition to the basic personal needs described above, unable to provide for their personal safety or necessary medical care.
Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act (SB 1338)
Under CARE Court, families, clinicians, first responders and others will be able to refer individuals suffering from schizophrenia spectrum or psychotic disorders for treatment.
CARE Court provides such individuals with clinically appropriate, community-based and court-ordered Care Plans. These include mental health and substance use disorder treatment services, short-term stabilization medications, wellness and recovery supports, social services and housing. Services are provided to the individual while they live in the community. Plans can be up to 2 years (12-24 months). In addition to their full clinical team, the client-centered approach also includes a volunteer supporter to help individuals make self-directed care decisions, and an attorney.