Steinberg Institute

Issue Spotlight

California has mental health billions. It’s time to improve how they’re spent

By Darrell Steinberg and Scott Wiener 
Special to The Sacramento Bee

August 02, 2018

In coming weeks, the Legislature will have the opportunity to pass a measure that would change the lives of thousands of Californians at risk of serious mental illness, increase access to quality mental health treatment, and ultimately turn the tide in our homelessness crisis.

But it means being more strategic and accountable in how we deliver mental health services in California. And that makes it controversial. It’s a gut-check moment. And we’re calling on state leaders to rise to the occasion.

The issue at hand is the state Mental Health Services Act. That’s the millionaire’s tax passed in 2004 that generates $2.2 billion a year for mental health care. Without question, the act has been a game-changer, providing a lifeline for tens of thousands of people whose lives have been derailed by serious mental illness.

But should it – and could it – be making an even bigger difference? We say yes.

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Video Feature

‘We Were in Desperate Need of State Support’

California has borne more than its share of disaster, from mass shootings to devastating wildfires and deadly mudslides. For survivors, these traumatic events can ravage mental health in ways that persist long after the disaster itself. AB 2333, by Assemblymember Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, would help establish a coordinated, statewide response to community mental health needs in the wake of disaster, similar to the state’s approach to basic needs like food and shelter. Above, Veronica Kelley, Director of the San Bernardino Co. Dept. of Behavioral Health, testifies about the emotional wounds that continue to torment her community more than two years after a terrorist attack killed 14 and wounded 22 others.

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We believe that access to quality mental health care is one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our time. The Steinberg Institute is committed to bringing together leaders in government, medicine, research, business and technology to advance the diagnosis and treatment of brain illness, and to usher in a system of care in which brain health is treated with the same sweep and urgency as physical health.

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