Steinberg Institute

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

Posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

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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Senate passes bill to make CA first state with voluntary workplace mental health standards

Posted on Friday, April 27, 2018

Landmark legislation that would make California the first state in the nation to establish voluntary mental health standards for the workplace was approved on the Senate floor Thursday by unanimous vote and moves to the Assembly with strong bipartisan backing. SB 1113, authored by Senator Bill Monning, D-Carmel, marks a bold effort to combat the stigma that still shrouds mental health in our nation and ensure mental illness is addressed with the same respect and urgency as physical illness in the workplace.

For years, employers have seen the wisdom of providing their employees with gym memberships, exercise space and nutritional snacks, having been schooled in the clear cost benefits of supporting physical well-being. SB 1113 would bring that same level of attention to supporting employee mental health.

In any given year, one in four Californians endures a mental health crisis, and yet mental health remains an uncomfortable and often unaddressed issue in many workplace settings. Research tells us that lack of attention comes at great cost for both employers and employees: Mental health issues are the single most expensive category of health costs for many employers, across all industries and sizes. The loss of employee productivity due to depression alone is estimated to cost U.S. companies as much as $44 billion per year.

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