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Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget calls for bold and strategic investments in mental health care that would set the stage for large-scale transformation and launch California into a new era of service delivery.
Newsom’s budget proposal, released Thursday, highlights the debilitating impacts of untreated mental illness on families and communities throughout California. In response, it promises aggressive investment across the treatment spectrum, vastly expanding early detection and intervention in mental illness, and infusing significant new funding into housing and treatment for people whose mental illness is already progressed and disabling.
In addition, he signaled an end to what has been a longstanding leadership vacuum in the state’s approach to mental health care, saying that in the coming weeks he would establish a new “mental health czar” to drive California toward a more visionary approach to care.
We launched the Steinberg Institute on January 5, 2015, with a goal of advancing sound public policy and inspiring leadership on issues of mental health. Our vision, pure and simple, was to upend the status quo and dramatically increase the profile and effectiveness of mental health policy-making in California.
This week, as we listened to Governor Gavin Newsom claim mental health as a top-tier priority in his inaugural address, we celebrated our fourth anniversary feeling gratified by what we’ve accomplished with your support and inspired as we look forward to what we know is possible. In a relatively short time frame, our small team has had an outsized impact on California policy, logging successes that never would have happened without your partnership.
California is not yet where it could be — not yet where it will be. But we have made decided gains on behalf of the tens of thousands of families in our state grappling with mental illness.
Among the accomplishments we’re proud to have helped shepherd:
— The November 2018 passage of Proposition 2, the “No Place Like Home” initiative that will generate $2 billion to get tens of thousands of people with serious mental illness off the streets and into permanent housing linked to treatment.
— Senate Bill 1004 requiring California to adopt a statewide strategic vision for prevention and early intervention in mental illness with the aim of standardizing and scaling up best practices.
— 2018 legislation making California the first state in the nation to develop and promote workplace mental health standards.
— Partnerships with restaurant leaders and other industries to promote workplace training on mental health issues.
— Newly forged alliances that have brought bold tech entrepreneurs together with county providers to advance innovative approaches to diagnoses and treatment of mental illness.
— Outreach and education that has grown the ranks of legislators who embrace mental health care as a priority.
— Increased training for law enforcement officers in dealing with people in psychiatric crisis.
— Expanded requirements for suicide prevention policies in public schools.
— Expanded oversight and reporting requirements for mental health spending.
— Convenings and outreach encouraging more effective approaches to growing our mental health workforce and improving service delivery.
And there is so much more to come. We’re honored to be among those advising the new Administration on mental health policy, and are committed to drawing on global expertise to design a road map for our state toward a more accessible, equitable and effective mental health care system. We once again will press for critical legislation to advance peer certification and a reimbursement system that supports same-day billing for physical and mental health services. We will attack disparities in the provision of physical and mental health care as an unacceptable violation of civil rights. We will continue our efforts to forge a system of care grounded in prevention and early intervention, so we are intervening well before a brain illness becomes disabling.
Four years in, and it feels like we’re only getting started. Just think what 2019 will bring.
Darrell Steinberg, Maggie Merritt and the Steinberg Institute team
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?
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.
Maggie Merritt/Executive Director