Report: Mental Health Services Act changes lives, saves money

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Maggie Merritt at 916-553-4167.

One-of-a-kind evaluation highlights current data on MHSA program outcomes and cost savings.

SACRAMENTO, CA – May 5, 2016. The Steinberg Institute, a non-profit mental health public policy organization, released their annual evaluation of Proposition 63 (Mental Health Services Act) funded programs.  Utilizing the most recent data, this report clearly illustrates the dramatic effects that comprehensive mental health services have on the most vulnerable citizens of California.

“It’s clear. When people, who live with a mental illness, receive the care they need there is a significant improvement in their quality of life.  Homelessness, emergency room use, arrests, imprisonment and recidivism, out of home placement of children, and other difficult life situations all decrease exponentially.” Stated Maggie Merritt, Executive Director of the Steinberg Institute.

Produced in partnership with the County Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA), this report shows that individuals who participated in MHSA funded programs in 2013 to 2014 – experienced the following life changing results:

  • Homelessness went down 52% for adults after 1 year of services and 68% after 2 years of services.
  • Mental health emergencies decreased by 89% among children and 90% for older adults.
  • Reduced psychiatric hospitalization by 57% for youth and 51% for older adults.
  • Dramatic decline in arrests from 86% for youth to 91% for older adults.
  • Incarcerations decreased by 49% for youth, 58% for adults, and 75% for older adults.

In terms of cost savings research shows:

  • The annual prison cost per inmate is approximately $51,000. The annual community housing and outpatient treatment costs for people with mental illness is $20,412.  If 500 offenders who live with a mental illness were sentenced to more appropriate residential treatment, there would be a cost savings of well over $15.2 million annually.
  • Public services for a chronically homeless individual can range from $60,000 to close to $100,000 annually. When housed, these costs are cut in half and some reports show reductions in cost of more than 70%. With 30,000 chronically homeless people in CA we would have a cost savings of billions of dollars annually.
  • UCLA conducted a cost analysis utilizing data from 2009-10, that found statewide Full Service Partnership (FSP) programs – or “whatever it takes” programs – had an annual cost offset of $87,479,568 in California due to reductions in high-cost public services such as arrests, emergency rooms visits, and long-term psychiatric care. Given the trends illustrating the increased numbers of people served over the past 11 years (see addendum) we know these costs savings have increased exponentially.

“This new data makes it clear – investing in mental health services saves lives and money,” said Steinberg. “California is faced with the serious issues of homelessness, the need for expanded crisis care services, and the rising number of incarcerated individuals living with a mental illness who do not receive the care they need. This report tells the story about what happens when people do get that care.  Mental illness does not have to be a life sentence of hopelessness.”

“Across the spectrum of age and culture, and from early interventions with youth, to helping people who have experienced hospitalizations and homelessness, MHSA services are producing positive results and making a real difference in Californian’s lives.” said Kirsten Barlow, Executive Director of the CBHDA.

“At the county level we are seeing the real-life impact these services have, story after story of improved outcomes for those with the most severe and challenging needs,” said Michael Kennedy, the Behavioral Health Director for Sonoma County. “These are lives changed forever because the right resources were provided in a robust way, but there is much more to do to meet the need that exists in our communities.”

The full report is available here and the addendum on service trends can be accessed here.

The Steinberg Institute thanks Mercy Housing for making the 7th & H Apartments available for this press conference and for the wonderful work they do in providing permanent supportive housing to those who need it.

The Steinberg Institute was founded in 2015 by Senate President pro Tem (ret) Darrell Steinberg (co-author of Proposition 63) to advance sound public policy and inspire leadership on the issues of mental health.

The County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California (CBHDA) is an advocacy organization representing the mental health directors of all 58 counties and two cities (Berkeley and Tri-City).


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