The CURSE of Conservatorship

by Meghan Roadkill Johnson

Over months of politically heated public hearings and rally’s on what direction SB 1045 would be headed in San Francisco, the bill passed on June 4th 2019 by an alarming 10 to 1 vote. Supervisor Shamann Walton, being the only one to oppose the conservatorship legislation, voiced that he was not convinced the city would make any plans to reduce the negative impact on the African American community, people of color and other marginalized groups. These populations are being afflicted by police brutality everyday in America and it’s not being addressed enough. This bill makes SFPD the definers of who should be conserved instead of licensed mental health aides.

Today, it is the police who mostly are the ones who bring people in under the state code 5150 for an evaluation to determine if the individual meets state criteria to lose their civil liberties.  Often the medical professionals decide the individual does not meet the state criteria because they do not present a harm to themselves or others, or they are not gravely disabled Under SB 1045, this changes drastically.  Now under this new form of conservatorship, harm to self or others will be defined as the police bringing the individual in 8 times. From there the courts will move forward with a huge process of looking at all past documented attempts of said person seeking mental health, and whether the city offered them voluntary services. If, after assessing the person, they find that person is in “need” of conservatorship, they strip them of all their rights and appoint the person a “public conservator” to make psychiatric decisions for them. Those conserved will not have their autonomy restored until a Federal Judge says they no longer need to be conserved.

For some it will mean detention, if there is no space in a community facility.  Everyday tasks that would involve independence will become a struggle. No more doctor appointments, no more grocery shopping, no more socializing, no more picking up prescriptions without the accompaniment of the public conservator.

No one is safe because the main Co-Author is California Senator Scott Weiner. Over months this bill was up in the air, Weiner and his team continued to broaden the definition of who the city would legally be allowed to steal off the streets and involuntarily throw into “services”. The new definition includes people living with mental health issues and visible disabilities and people using substances, out in the open who have been brought in by police at least 8 times.

Black and white collage art featuring various shapes, and a figure holding a circle that reads "YOU ARE NOT ALONE", underneath which is a block reading "QUEER", and then "solidarity worldwide".

Apu // Theo Collective (Twitter: @Apu_sometree & Instagram: @apu_sometree)
Apu is a 36 years old queer non-binary punk, organic gardener/farmer and collage diy artist workin’ and livin’ on a organic seed breeding farm near Bremen/northern germany. She’s creatin’ collage artwork for more than 18 years now (doin’ a lot of coops with zines, bands, solidarity projects, collectives…) and is part of a small diy art collective named Theo Collective

On Twitter, Mayor London Breed was not shy about her support of the newly passed legislation.

“Strengthening our conservatorship laws is a compassionate approach, helping people who are suffering from mental health and substance issues get the treatment they need. If we don’t act, more people will die on our streets”

Compassion and conservatorship should not even reside in the same sentence together. Conserving people and taking away their civil liberties is not how anyone shows compassion. Get real, Mayor Breed because your actions do not demonstrate true care for these vulnerable communities, they demonstrate you care about lining your pockets with city investors’ money and they don’t want to see these communities thrive because they can’t make a profit off of them that way.

Conserving people is not the answer to ending homelessness!

The open public will be able to abuse this bill to their advantage being able to call on homeless neighbor’s. Incarceration will also skyrocket as numbers of 5150’s rise.

Throwing people into involuntary services is NOT the humane way to go. We will see a fall in people seeking voluntary assistance, we will see a rise in unnecessary and wrongful 5150’s. Time will tell how “effective” this bill will really be.