Steinberg Institute

My turn: Voters showed heart by supporting housing for people with mental illness

Posted on Monday, November 19, 2018

Guest Commentary/Posted Nov. 19, 2018

By Darrell Steinberg
Special to CALmatters

It’s an amazing story, really. A testament to the priorities – and the hearts — of California voters.

Earlier this month, more than 6.5 million people voted in favor of Proposition 2, the initiative that will generate billions of dollars to build supportive housing, linked to services and treatment, for people living with a serious mental illness who are homeless or at risk of chronic homelessness.

Proposition 2 not only passed. It drew more votes than any proposition on the statewide ballot.

The outcome underscores the extent to which people across this state recognize homelessness as a crisis that is tearing at the fabric of our communities. How many times have you walked by someone huddled in a doorway, disheveled and disoriented, and wondered, “What can one person do?”

About a third of the people subsisting on our streets and alleys live with untreated mental illness. Without stable housing, the challenges of getting them into effective treatment and recovery are monumental and sometimes impossible. Instead, our police and firefighters have become the first and last resort for responding to people in psychiatric crisis.

Proposition 2 offers a real, evidence-based solution: stable housing partnered with wraparound services.

And voters’ overwhelming support for its passage marks a call to arms: We need to attack homelessness–and the untreated mental illness that so often lands people on the streets—as the public health crisis that it is.

We need to move fast, as we do when responding to other disasters of monstrous proportion. We need to get this money out and ensure our cities and counties work collaboratively to get the housing built, and to pair those homes with the services that make this treatment model successful.

So what happens now? 

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Prop 2: A $2 billion infusion — and we will see a difference

Posted on Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dear Friends,

We wanted to take a moment to recognize a truly watershed moment for mental health care in California. On Tuesday, state voters approved Proposition 2, culminating three years of hard work, advocacy and outreach by our institute and so many of our friends and fellow advocates across the state and on both sides of the political aisle.

This is no small victory. Proposition 2 at long last launches the “No Place Like Home” Program and will address a critical missing link in California’s continuum of care for people living with serious mental illness. It means a $2 billion infusion to build permanent supportive housing, linked to treatment and services, for people living homeless with a serious mental illness. Every county in California stands to benefit. Over the course of the program, we expect this pivotal investment to generate 20,000 units of housing linked to evidence-based services – and to move tens of thousands of people off the streets and into recovery.

Most of us are deeply aware of the strain homelessness has put on our neighborhoods, businesses, law enforcement and sense of community. We also know that about a third of the people living on the streets are there with untreated mental illness. This is a public health travesty that results in untold suffering and hundreds of deaths every year. By approving Proposition 2, Californians have stepped up strong to address this crisis, and we will see a difference.

So, how will it work? The state will draw on a very small portion of MHSA funds to leverage $2 billion in bonds to build permanent supportive housing that, by statute, must be linked to intensive treatment and services. The program is structured so that all counties have access to funding. And most are eager to launch: At this point, every county in the state has applied for – and been awarded – a NPLH planning grant.

Proposition 2 gives our communities a road map – and financial incentive — to invest meaningful resources in a proven model of care. Our heartfelt thanks for your support as we have fought to make this a reality. Without question, it will mean a better California.

In Partnership,

Darrell Steinberg/Founder

Maggie Merritt/Executive Director

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