2021 Call To Action

Dear friends and supporters,

As we move into 2021 and approach the start of spring, it feels like there are at last some reasons for hope and optimism. That knowledge fuels our determination to create policies that will ease the suffering and address the inequities that remain in place today.

We are excited to announce the Institute’s legislative package for 2021 and we hope these critical pieces of legislation inspire your organization’s support. Please feel free to use the sample letters, linked below, or draft your own to send to the authors and committee members that will hear these bills.

Here are the bills we are sponsoring in 2021:

AB 988, The Miles Hall Lifeline Act (Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda), will transform the way California responds to mental health emergencies to ensure those in crisis receive the urgent care they need. The system uses an easy-to-remember three-digit phone number – 988 – as an alternative to 911 so individuals and their families know and can trust that the appropriate help is only one call away. Call centers will connect people with trained counselors and dispatch mobile crisis support teams – staffed by mental health professionals and trained peers instead of police officers – to help a person in crisis.

The legislation is authored by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and is jointly authored by Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), and Philip Ting (D-San Francisco); and co-authored by more than a dozen other legislators. You can see a fact sheet here and a sample support letter here.

AB 816 (Chiu, D-San Francisco) would demand of state and local officials a heightened sense of urgency and accountability around one of the great moral failings of our time – mass homelessness. Before the coronavirus pandemic, some 150,000 Californians experienced homelessness on any given night, and at least 24% of them live with a severe mental illness.  The numbers also reflect unacceptable racial disparities: African Americans, for example, make up just 6.5 percent of the state’s overall population but almost 40 percent of the homeless.

AB 816 requires local government and the state to develop a plan to reduce homelessness by 90 percent by 2030 and to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities. It would create a Homelessness Inspector General who can bring legal action against the state or local governments for failing to submit or implement a plan.

AB 816 is authored by Assemblymember David Chiu and jointly authored by Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) and sponsored by the Steinberg Institute, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Housing California, and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, co-chair of the Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors. A fact sheet is here. A sample letter of support is here.

AB 71, Bring California Home Act (Luz Rivas, D-Arleta), addresses the homeless crisis by increasing taxes on the wealthiest multinational corporations and other companies with annual profits of $5 million and dedicating the revenue to building housing and other proven strategies that reduce homelessness – and prevent more Californians from falling into it. The bill will generate at least $2.4 billion annually for cities and counties to achieve ambitious performance goals, collaborate with each other and the state, and continually innovate and improve.

The bill is authored by Assemblymember Rivas and jointly authored by Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), David Chiu (D-San Francisco, and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland). AB 71 is sponsored by the Steinberg Institute; Corporation for Supportive Housing; Housing California; the City of Los Angeles and Mayor Eric Garcetti; the City of San Francisco and Mayor London Breed; the City of Oakland and Mayor Libby Schaaf; All Home; Brilliant Corners; Episcopal Community Services-San Francisco; HOPICS; John Burton Advocates for Youth; National Alliance to End Homelessness; Non-Profit Housing Assn. of Northern California; and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. A fact sheet is here and a sample support letter here.

SB 106, (Umberg, D-Santa Ana), will free up hundreds of millions of dollars from the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) for vital mental health services. The bill would pre-approve full-service partnerships (FSPs), which provide intensive outpatient care with a “whatever it takes” approach to help people living with a severe mental illness, for the use of MHSA innovation funds.

Even though innovation funds represent only 5 percent of all MHSA funds, they make up 63 percent of unspent dollars. According to a 2017 report by the California State Auditor, at the end of fiscal year 2015-2016, counties had $146 million in unspent innovation funds. According to that same audit, these unspent dollars are going unspent due to the onerous, opaque, and drawn-out project approval process counties must go through before spending innovation dollars.

With more and more Californians suffering from untreated mental illness and dying in despair, it is unconscionable to leave money on the table. It is time to put these dollars to work and get people the care they need. A fact sheet is here and a sample support letter here.

Thank you for taking action now to show the behavioral health community’s strong support for these ambitious efforts!  As the legislative session moves along, we’ll let you know when bills come before committees and when we’d like you to take additional actions. If you’re not already doing so, please be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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