Gavin Newsom’s mental health plan is going to voters. Here’s what you need to know

By Kristen Hwang | CalMatters

California voters next spring will get to decide on a ballot measure to create housing and treatment options for homeless individuals with serious mental illness. If it passes, the measure championed by Gov. Gavin Newsom would mark the first major overhaul of the state’s community mental health system in 20 years.

The two-pronged proposition on the March primary election ballot includes a nearly $6.4 billion bond to build 10,000 psychiatric treatment units. It also asks voters to redefine how counties spend money collected from a special “millionaire’s tax” to allocate a share of it for housing.

Newsom and supporters have promoted Proposition 1 as a way to help address the state’s deteriorating homelessness and addiction crises. They contend increased investment and an update to the state’s Mental Health Services Act is “long overdue”.

The Legislature on Thursday overwhelmingly backed his proposal, with lopsided votes to place it on the 2024 ballot. Newsom still must sign the bills, and he said he would in a written statement after a late-night vote in the Assembly.

“These measures represent a key part of the solution to our homelessness crisis, and improving mental health for kids and families,” Newsom said. “Now, it will be up to voters to ratify the most significant changes to California’s mental health system in more than 50 years.”

Opponents of the ballot measure say diverting money in the Mental Health Services Act for housing will result in up to $1 billion in cuts to current mental health programs like outpatient care and crisis response. Other advocates criticize the governor for making last-minute changes to the bond, allowing the money to be spent on involuntary treatment institutions.

So what exactly are voters being asked to consider? Here’s how the proposal breaks down.

What is the Mental Health Services Act?

The Mental Health Services Act, which voters passed as a ballot measure in 2004, levies a 1% tax on personal income over $1 million. It passed at a time when the state’s mental health system was severely underfunded. Since then, the tax has generated an estimated $26 billion for county mental health programs. Last year the tax garnered more than $3 billion. It supports roughly one-third of the state’s mental health system.

The tax is not California’s only source of revenue for mental health programs. The state also receives money from Medi-Cal, and it spends a portion of its general fund on those services. Those sources come with strict spending limitations. For example, Medi-Cal primarily pays for treatment of mental health disorders but will not cover prevention programs. It also will not pay for inpatient treatment at a facility with more than 16 beds.

Counties have come to rely on the relative flexibility of Mental Health Services Act dollars to pay for core services like outpatient care, outreach and engagement, school-based counseling, youth wellness programs, family resource centers, and crisis response teams.

What does Newsom want to do?

The most significant change put forth by the governor is a requirement that counties invest 30% of their Mental Health Services …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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