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Important Details about Gavin Newsom’s Mental Health Plan Going to Voters Revealed by Monterey Herald


Sep 16, 2023

California Governor Gavin Newsom is sponsoring a ballot measure that will be voted on next spring. This measure aims to create housing and treatment options for homeless individuals with severe mental illness. If passed, it will be the first major overhaul of the state’s community mental health system in 20 years. The ballot measure includes $6.4 billion in bonds to build 10,000 psychiatric treatment units and proposes redefining how the county uses money raised from a special “millionaire tax” for housing allocation.

Newsom and his allies argue that Proposition 1 is necessary to address the state’s worsening homelessness and addiction crisis. They believe that increased investment and updates to the mental health services law are long overdue. The proposal has received overwhelming support from Congress and now awaits Newsom’s signature.

However, there are critics who argue that converting funds to housing would result in a $1 billion cut from current mental health programs, including outpatient care and crisis response. Others express concerns about the funds being spent on involuntary treatment facilities. Despite the debate, the ballot measure offers a significant opportunity for change in California’s mental health system.

The Mental Health Services Act, passed by voters in 2004, imposes a 1% tax on personal income over $1 million. This tax has generated an estimated $26 billion for county mental health programs, supporting a third of the state’s mental health system. While California also receives funding from Medi-Cal and its general fund, the Mental Health Services Act provides more flexible funding for core services such as outpatient care, youth programs, and crisis response teams.

Newsom’s proposal includes a requirement for each county to invest 30% of its Mental Health Services Act tax dollars into housing programs, with a focus on chronically homeless individuals. Substance use disorder treatment could also be funded through these funds, with the program renamed the Behavioral Health Services Act.

The second part of the proposal seeks to issue $6.4 billion in general obligation bonds to expand the state’s mental health and addiction treatment infrastructure. The funds would go towards building inpatient and residential treatment beds, as well as permanent supportive housing, with a portion reserved for veterans.

California has a significant homelessness problem, with over 170,000 unhoused individuals, many living in street encampments. A study found that nearly two-thirds of unhoused Californians surveyed suffered from a mental health disorder, but only a small percentage had recently received treatment. However, research shows that the primary cause of homelessness is the loss of income, not mental illness or addiction.

Supporters of the ballot measure include Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman and Congressman Jackie Irwin, along with mayors, county supervisors, housing advocates, and the California National Alliance on Mental Illness. On the other hand, business and disability groups, as well as organizations representing people of color and the LGBTQ community, oppose the measure. They argue that it would worsen disparities in access to treatment and eliminate preventive resources.

Despite the opposition, the governor has made concessions to address concerns raised by child and family advocates, resulting in the withdrawal of their opposition. The ballot measure is seen as an opportunity to make significant changes to California’s mental health system, but it remains a topic of debate and scrutiny.

By Editor

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