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? 

Click here to read the full article.


Mentally ill homeless people won’t get well on the sidewalks. They need housing. Yes on Prop 2

Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2018

BY THE LOS ANGELES TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

Of the roughly 134,000 homeless people on the streets of California, about a third are seriously mentally ill. Their illnesses cannot be successfully treated on sidewalks. They must get housing first. That’s why the state of California wisely enacted Assembly Bill 1816 two years ago to raise $2 billion to build or preserve permanent supportive housing for homeless people suffering from mental illness.

The bonds authorized by the program would be paid off by temporarily using a small portion — just about 6% — of the revenue generated by Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, which voters approved in 2004 to provide mental health treatment programs and services in the state. The proposition imposed a 1% surcharge on incomes above $1 million, which is expected to generate more than $2 billion this year alone. But the housing program — titled No Place Like Home — has been stymied by a lawsuit that contends the Mental Health Services Act was never intended to be spent on housing.

Voters will have the chance to resolve this issue in November by passing a ballot measure, Proposition 2, that would explicitly allow Mental Health Services Act dollars to be spent on the No Place Like Home program. We strongly endorse it.

Click here to read the full article.


Editorial: Prop 2 provides vital housing funds for mentally ill

Posted on Monday, September 24, 2018

BY MERCURY NEWS & EAST BAY TIMES EDITORIAL BOARDS

You see them every day: Homeless people with mental illnesses wandering the streets with nowhere to go and no one to care for them.

It’s heartbreaking. Especially for those who understand that mental health disorders are physical diseases little different from heart or bone conditions except in our lack of understanding of how the mind works. Many forms of mental illness are treatable, if not curable, if those suffering can be given secure housing and the treatment and services they deserve.

Proposition 2 is designed to take a serious run at solving that problem. The measure would allow the Legislature to issue $2 billion of bonds to fund housing for homeless people with mental health problems. The money to pay off the bonds — estimated at $120 million a year — would come directly from Proposition 63 revenues, the tax on wealthy Californians that voters passed in 2004 to finance better mental health care.

It’s both a humane and smart use of funds. Voters should give Prop. 2 overwhelming support on Nov. 6.

Click here to read the full article.


The easiest way to get more housing? Vote yes on Propositions 1 and 2

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018

BY THE SACRAMENTO BEE EDITORIAL BOARD

Thanks to the housing crisis, California also has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in homelessness. Nearly a quarter of the men, women and children who don’t have a permanent residence live here, increasingly in tents on street corners and often with an untreated mental illness.

Proposition 2 would address that.

The measure would finally let counties use money from Proposition 63 to pay for the construction of permanent housing for homeless people, as long as that housing includes a direct connection to supportive social services.

Click here to read the full article.


Editorial: S.F. Chronicle recommends Yes on California Prop. 2

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018

BY THE CHRONICLE EDITORIAL BOARD

Darrell Steinberg, long one of the state’s leaders in mental-health policy, had always envisioned that housing would be key to the strategy of stabilizing people with severe mental illness. California voters in 2004 approved Steinberg’s Proposition 63, a surtax on income over $1 million to expand mental-health programs — but the measure did not explicitly mention housing.

Prop. 2, on the Nov. 6 ballot, would close that gap. It would authorize $2 billion in bonds from the Mental Health Services Act (as Prop. 63 is known) to build supportive housing for people with severe mental illness who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The bond repayment would amount to about $130 million a year out of a fund that is now bringing in about $2 billion annually.

Click here to read the full article.


‘A Targeted Solution to an Exasperating Problem’ – Governor Should Sign SB 1004

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2018

BY THE LOS ANGELES TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD 

Like much of the rest of the nation, California went only halfway toward keeping its promise to improve mental health care. It closed psychiatric hospitals, some of which were really just costly warehouses for the sick rather than modern medical facilities offering effective treatment. But the state didn’t follow through on its commitment to provide better alternatives, like community-based clinics that deliver the treatment and services needed to integrate patients into society, working and living independently where possible.

We can see the result of those half-measures every day. About a third of homeless people in Los Angeles and across the country are on the street because of untreated mental illnesses that prevent them from staying housed or holding down a job.

We’ve begun to make amends, at least of a sort. Fourteen years ago, voters passed Proposition 63, known informally as the millionaires’ tax and more properly as the Mental Health Services Act. It raises billions of dollars for services.

More recently, Los Angeles voters adopted tax measures to raise money for supportive housing — units that will give homeless people, including those with serious mental health challenges, the opportunity for dignified and independent living while receiving the medical care and services they need to hold their illnesses at bay and stay off the streets.

These are fine programs, but if they’re all we’ve got they will be futile. The ranks of mentally ill homeless Californians are constantly being replenished. As fast as we can lead the sick and suffering into homes, they are replaced on the street by new generations of people whose mental illnesses were left undiagnosed or untreated at an early stage, when they still could have been held in check.

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Why is it so hard to get mentally ill Californians into treatment? Three bills tell the tale

Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2018

By Jocelyn Wiener
CALmatters

For years, Diane Shinstock watched her adult son deteriorate on the streets.  Suffering from severe schizophrenia, he slept under stairwells and bushes, screamed at passersby and was arrested for throwing rocks at cars.

Sometimes he refused the housing options he was offered. Sometimes he got kicked out of places for bad behavior.  Shinstock, who lives in Roseville and works on disability issues for the state of California, begged mental health officials to place him under conservatorship—essentially, depriving him of his personal liberty because he was so sick that he couldn’t provide for his most basic personal needs of food, clothing and shelter.

But county officials told her, she said, that under state law, her son could not be conserved; because he chose to live on the streets, he did not fit the criteria for “gravely disabled.”

“I was devastated,” she said. “I cried for days.”

So Shinstock—along with her husband Joe, a policy consultant who works for Republican leadership in the Assembly—set out to change state law. Their uphill battle illustrates the complex philosophical, legal and ethical questions that surround conservatorship in California.

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We Need to Treat Mental Illness Before People Land On The Streets

Posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2018

By Heather Knight
San Francisco Chronicle

Aug. 7, 2018

The severely mentally ill people we see on the sidewalks of San Francisco every day have one thing in common: The system failed them in disastrous fashion.

Chances are they have something else in common, too: mental illness stemming back to their childhood or young adulthood that was never properly treated. Clinical research shows 50 percent of all mental illness begins by age 14 and 75 percent begins by age 24.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, has a proposal to catch these cases far earlier, before people suffering with untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder wind up living on our sidewalks and under our freeway overpasses.

Click here to read the full article.


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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California needs more mental health professionals – and the shortage will get worse

Posted on Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The United States is suffering a critical shortage of licensed mental health professionals — and California is no exception. A study released in February by the Healthforce Center at UC San Francisco projects that California will have a severe shortage of psychiatrists by 2028. As it is, 23 of California’s 58 counties have fewer than one psychiatrist per 10,000 residents. Six counties have no psychiatrist at all.

Click here to read the full article.


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