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Passing ‘grave disability’ was hard – getting counties to implement it has been harder

Published January 31, 2024

Diana Staros died at 28 after overdosing in the restroom of an East Oakland laundromat last September. She had been addicted to methamphetamine since she was in her late teens, likely “self-medicating” to escape the persistent voices in her head. Among her many delusions, she insisted she was pregnant (she wasn’t) and that meth was “good for the baby.” Toward the end, she said it was good for her too, and that doctors recommended it.

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The Capitol Weekly interview: Sen. Susan Eggman’s long battle for mental health reform

Published September 11, 2023

Widely regarded as the most knowledgeable and effective state legislator on mental health issues in the Legislature, Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) is credited with major, bipartisan legislative accomplishments over nearly 12 years, first in the Assembly, now in the Senate, where she chairs the Senate Health Committee.

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The growing push for major action on mental health and homelessness

Published February 22, 2023

Brian Bloom was an Alameda County public defender for nearly three decades, part of a specialized mental health unit whose clients suffered from severe mental illness, many unable to understand – or even acknowledge – that they were sick, becoming mired in an overwhelmed criminal justice system ill-equipped to help them.

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California Health, September 13, 2022

California Health – Panel 2: CARE Courts from Capitol Weekly on Vimeo.

Governor Newsom’s Care Court Proposal

The legislature passed SB1338, which creates the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court, a new system which could dictate treatment for 7,000-12,000 people suffering from addiction or severe mental illness per year.

Speakers: Corrin Buchanan, California Health and Human Services Agency; Randall Hagar, Psychiatric Physicians Alliance of California; Dr. Le Ondra Clark Harvey, California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies; Elizabeth Kaino Hopper, Sacramento Chapter, National Alliance on Mental Illness

Moderated by Sigrid Bathen, Capitol Weekly

View entire event here

Program and Speaker’s Bios available here 

Capitol Weekly Interview: Randall Hagar and mental health care

Published September 12, 2022

Randall Hagar has been in the forefront of major mental health policy and legislation in California for decades. As the father of a severely mentally ill adult son and longtime legislative advocate for California psychiatrists, he has deep knowledge of both family struggles and the complex intricacies of mental health policy.

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California Votes, Panel 4


Dialysis Clinic Requirements

Proponents have introduced a Ballot Measure which would require a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, with six months’ relevant experience, on site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics; authorizes exemption for staffing shortage if qualified medical professional is available through telehealth. Requires clinics to disclose to patients all physicians with clinic ownership interests of five percent or more. Requires clinics to report dialysis-related infection data to state. Prohibits clinics from closing or substantially reducing services without state approval. Prohibits clinics from refusing to treat patients based on source of payment.

Moderated by Sigrid Bathen of Capitol Weekly.

Panelists: Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman, Stop Yet Another Dangerous Dialysis Proposition; David Miller, Research Director, SEIU-UHW

View entire event here

Program and Speaker’s Bios available here 

Helping mentally ill people: The debate over ‘involuntary treatment’

Published May 18, 2022

Lee Davis says flatly that without involuntary treatment for her raging psychosis, she would be dead. “It saved my life.”

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A deep dive into Newsom plan to overhaul mental health policy

Published March 24, 2022

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Stephen Manley started the first Mental Health Court in California – one of the first in the country – in 1998, to divert increasing numbers of mentally ill defendants from the criminal justice system, where jails and prisons are often called “the new asylums.”

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California Crime Conference, Panel 1


TRUE CRIME – The Statistics
California’s murder rate climbed 30% in 2020 and appears to have continued to rise in 2021. High profile Smash-and-Grab robberies made headlines; Some politicians blame Prop. 47 for creating a perception that these crimes have no consequences. Yet, property crime rates were at historic lows in 2020 – down 30% since 2000. Robberies decreased by 14% and rapes decreased by 8%. What are we to make of these statistics, and how do they compare to national trends? Did Prop. 47 cause a crime wave? What are the real numbers for California Crime?

Moderated by Sigrid Bathen of Capitol Weekly

Featuring: Magnus Lofstrom, Public Policy Institute of California; Alyson Lunetta,California Department of Justice Statistical Center; Jennifer Noble, CSU Sacramento; Gregory D. Totten, California District Attorneys Association

View entire event here

Program and Speaker’s Bios available here 

Lawmakers agree: Little change in CA’s mental health care system

Published December 23, 2021

In a lengthy, often emotional legislative hearing on California’s badly broken mental health system, lawmakers and dozens of witnesses agreed that very little has changed, despite decades of new laws and huge infusions of public funds.

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Real change proves elusive in mental health care system

Published November 10, 2021

Important legislation to improve California’s broken mental health system was passed this year, plus billions in new funding in the state budget — all aimed at stemming the tide of a growing crisis on California streets, in hospital ER’s, jails and prisons.

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Capitol Weekly Health Care Conference: Panel 2

Respecting personal autonomy while providing treatment is one of the most vexing issues in treatment of severe mental illness and addiction. Our panelists will look at this legal and ethical balancing act.

Moderated by Sigrid Bathen of Capitol Weekly

Panelists: Bridgette Dean, Sacramento Department of Community Response; Santa Clara County Mental Health Court Judge Stephen Manley; Al Rowlett, Turning Point Community Programs; Brian Stettin, Treatment Advocacy Center

View entire event here

Program and Speaker’s Bios available here 

Capitol Weekly Interview: Susan Talamantes Eggman

Published September 20, 2021

Susan Talamantes Eggman was raised in Turlock, where her family owned a small almond orchard and apiary (bee-keeping), and her first job that wasn’t on the family farm started her on a path to working in health care and mental health throughout her life.

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‘Laura’s Law’ okayed in 30 counties — a major statewide turnaround

Published June 17, 2021

In a significant policy shift spanning nearly two decades, 30 counties in California – including all of the larger counties, with an estimated 80 percent of the state’s population – have now adopted a 2002 state law giving families a legal avenue to get severely mentally ill relatives into treatment.

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Capitol Weekly Podcast: Cops and Clinicians

Published April 26, 2021

Veteran journalist and university professor Sigrid Bathen, who has written extensively about California’s mental health policies, joins Tim Foster and John Howard on the Capitol Weekly Podcast to chat about what is rapidly becoming a hot political issue — having mental health clinicians accompany police officers on some emergency calls, such as family disturbances. The “cops and clinicians” movement is capturing attention. She also touches on the “5150” involuntary hold, the dispute over “Laura’s Law” and our mental hospitals. And Tim and John ponder on “Who had the Worst Week in California?”


Letter to the Editor: Mental health care

Published April 13, 2021


I want to commend reporter Sigrid Bathen for her thorough and excellent reporting on an issue important to so many people: providing mental health care for our loved ones.

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Legacy of a young woman’s murder: Will the counties step up?

Published April 7, 2021

Sue Frost, chair of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, did not originally support a 2002 state law that provides family members with one of the few legal avenues to get severely mentally ill relatives into intensive treatment. Like other public officials, she was concerned about patient rights and cost.

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For the mentally ill, a life-and-death debate over Laura’s Law

Published April 6 2021

When Kaino Hopper’s 31-year-old daughter Christine adamantly refused – as she often has — the mental health treatment she so desperately needs, it was a rainy, blustery January day in Sacramento, and she was homeless, sleeping in fields and suburban parks. Her mother had few choices, and contacted her daughter’s caseworker for help.

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Mental health courts cut costs, inmates, but lack oversight, data

Published November 12, 2020

San Francisco attorney Jennifer Johnson views her life and legal trajectory as “life before and life after” a devastating 2016 homicide case that forever changed her view of how the courts treat defendants who are mentally ill.

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Santa Clara judge creates ‘gold standard’ for mental health courts

Published November 11, 2020

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Stephen Manley refers to defendants in his courtroom as “clients” – an indication of the unusually informal and conversational tenor of the Behavioral Health Court he created more than two decades ago.

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Capitol Weekly Health Care Conference: Panel 2

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored stark disparities in the Health system; the chance of getting – and surviving – the virus is heavily dependent on race, class and income. What can be done to achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups?

Moderated by Sigrid Bathen, Capitol Weekly. Panelists: Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry; Sonya Young Aadam, California Black Women’s Health Project; Jeffrey Reynoso, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; Kiran Savage-Sangwan, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

View entire event here

Program and Speaker’s Bios available here 

Q&A: Darrell Steinberg’s longtime focus on mental health

Published September 16, 2020

When Darrell Steinberg first ran for the state Assembly in 1998, he made mental health the bedrock of his legislative agenda. Shortly after he took office, the former Sacramento city councilman introduced AB 34, which initially provided $10 million to fund pilot projects for community mental-health programs.

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Lawmakers send historic mental-health bills to Newsom

Published September 3, 2020

Landmark legislation to improve California’s notoriously fractured mental-health system has been passed and sent to the governor in the waning days of a chaotic legislative session disrupted by the COVID pandemic

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Auditor slams state mental-health system, revives Laura’s Law

Published August 6, 2020

A massive and highly critical state auditor’s report has given new life to legislation to deal with California’s notoriously troubled mental-health system. The shift comes as state lawmakers, convening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, face hundreds of bills in the closing days of the legislative session.

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Dangerous mix: Law enforcement and mentally ill suspects

Published July 21, 2020

Police response to mental-health calls often ends – again and again – in chaotic, noisy hospital emergency rooms, where staff is stretched thin, and a heart attack is likely to take precedence over someone in the throes of a mental-health crisis.

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Pressure Mounts on How Police Handle Mental-Health Crises

Published July 20, 2020

On the afternoon of May 8, 2017, the family of 32-year-old Mikel McIntyre called 911 for help in dealing with his increasingly erratic and threatening behavior. The former high school and college athlete, who lived in Antioch and had briefly played baseball in the minor leagues, had been showing signs of serious mental illness, and his mother was concerned. She hoped a visit with family in Sacramento might help.

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Stronger ‘Laura’s Law’ Wins Assembly Approval

Published June 9, 2020

Legislation to strengthen California’s 2002 “Laura’s Law,” which gives family members a legal tool to get treatment for their severely mentally ill relatives, has been approved 77-0 by the state Assembly, despite opposition from some California counties, behavioral health directors and a labor union representing employees in local mental-health programs.

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Mental health care: From the snake pit to the streets

Published January 28, 2020

The modern history of mental-health care in California begins more than half a century ago with passage of the landmark 1967 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, an ambitious — but ultimately disastrous —  overhaul of a draconian “system” of hoary old mental hospitals throughout California.

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Clay Jackson, Sacramento Lobbyist – Oral Histories

Published December 20, 2018

Clay Jackson was once the most powerful lobbyist in Sacramento, representing the insurance industry and overseeing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to politicians. His firm billed $2 million annually. But Jackson, along with 11 others, was caught in the FBI’s undercover corruption investigation of the state Capitol and wound up going to federal prison. The probe came to light in August 1988 following the FBI’s nighttime raid on the Capitol. The fallout of that investigation, one of the darkest episodes in the Capitol’s history, continued for years.

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 Hill1-600x321LAO in retrospect: a conversation with Elizabeth Hill

Published April 25, 2016

Elizabeth Hill became the first woman to head the California Legislative Analyst’s Office in 1986 when she was eight months’ pregnant with her second child. For 22 years, she held one of the most important positions in state government — advising the 120-member Legislature during fractious times and sometimes clashing over policy recommendations in an increasingly partisan environment beset by the passage of term limits, deep budget cuts, and recession.

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Surgical-Team-634x321Doctors’ drug tests: a divisive issue

Published October 19, 2014

On Oct. 23, 2013, San Diego physician Dr. Scott D. Greer submitted urine and hair samples to an investigator for the Medical Board of California, which oversees physician licensing and discipline. Laboratory tests found the samples to be positive for opiates and oxycodone, but not for alcohol.

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Debate-575x321Democrats divided: The race for state schools superintendent

Published September 23, 2014

For an obscure elective office that is often ignored, unknown or regarded as superfluous in California’s convoluted education bureaucracy, the November election for state Superintendent of Public Instruction is shaping up as one of the most contentious — and costly — races among statewide candidates.

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capweeklyaug2011Changes in mental health care system spur new optimism

Published August 18, 2011

Massive changes in how mental health care is delivered to Californians – including abolishing or restructuring the two state departments responsible for mental health and substance-abuse programs – are being closely watched by care providers and advocacy groups.

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New money for mental health care; Families hopes rise, Part 2

Published September 8, 2005

newmoneymentalProposition 63 is revving up fueled by activists’ passion

Darrell Steinberg, whose crusade to help California’s mentally ill culminated in the passage of the landmark Proposition 63, got an early education in the power of grass-roots advocacy.

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Out of the Snakepit, Part 1

Published September 1, 2005

outofsnakepitRose King has seen it all.

A widely recognized expert on mental health issues, she has served in the trenches of the mental health wars for more than 30 years–even before the 1969 suicide of her husband, who suffered from what was then called manic depression. Years later, her son also committed suicide—after suffering from the same illness, known now as bipolar disorder.

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