California Ballot Measure Aiming to Help Mental Health Services Opposed by Some Claiming Opposite Effect 

public domain CC0 photo.

By Melinda Kukaj

SACRAMENTO, CA – Proposition 1, the two-step initiative aiming to improve mental health service access, will be before the voters March 5, but the California Budget & Policy Center said some oppose it because the measure “represents a significant regression in the treatment of mental illness and substance use disorders,” especially for communities of color and LGBTQ+.

This act would improve California’s behavioral health service at the state-wide level, according to the CBPC by providing $6.38 billion in general obligation bond funding for treatment and residential facilities, amendments to the existing Mental Health Services Act, as well as housing support for veterans and those who are at risk of homelessness due to mental health concerns.

However, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), funded through a county basis, provides one third of its funding to mental health services as stated by the Department of Health Care Services, Mental Health Services.

The CBPC writes, “changes to the MHSA will impact a system that currently supports all Californians with behavioral health conditions. In contrast, the bond focuses on individuals with behavioral conditions who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness, which is a smaller portion of the unhoused population.”

According to the CBPC, Prop. 1 aims to aid those who are most in need, such as those experiencing severe mental health concerns and homelessness.

The CBPC describes the 2023 homelessness point-in-time count, showing that “25 percent of the 181,399 people experiencing homelessness in California had a severe mental illness and 24 percent had a substance use disorder.”

The CBPC explains the challenges facing unhoused people, quoting a recent statewide study from UCSF that found “nearly 4 in 5 unhoused Californians surveyed reported experiencing a serious mental health condition at some point in life, and those with current mental health conditions reported limited access to treatment.”

The CBPC stated that, if passed, Prop. 1 would rename MHSA to Behavioral Health Services Act (BHSA), including treatment for substance abuse disorders.

Additionally, according to the CBPC, under Prop. 1, funding would change as well, counties will receive 90 percent of the budget, “the allocation across different spending categories would change, without an increase in revenues. Counties would allocate their BHSA funds as follows: however there is an outline to be followed such as 30 percent for housing interventions, 35 percent for Full Service Partnership programs, and 35 percent for behavioral services and supports.”

The authors of the CBPC report, Monica Davalos and Adriana Ramos-Yamamoto, claim this initiative has both strong supporters and opponents. Those who support believe that this is a right step to prioritizing the needs of those with severe mental health needs as well as addressing California’s housing and homelessness concerns.

However, the CBPC notes those who oppose this measure argue, “Prop. 1 represents a significant regression in the treatment of mental illness and substance use disorders, likening its impact to a 50-year setback. This perspective stems from allowing funding to be used for involuntary or forced treatment facilities.” Additionally, opponents believe that communities of color and LGBTQ+ individuals could have reduced access to services.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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