Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing hundreds of millions in new spending on services for mental health in his newly released “May Revise” budget, a welcome infusion of resources that would make meaningful strides in strengthening services for people living with mental illness and addressing California’s crisis of homelessness.
The proposal marks an extraordinary recognition of the role untreated mental illness plays in an array of public policy challenges, including homelessness, overcrowded jails and substance use disorders. It calls for substantial investments in effective services across the treatment spectrum, from support and housing for the tens of thousands of people living on the streets with serious mental illness to expanded outreach to young people at risk of developing mental illness, or in the early stages of disease, with the aim of intervening before the illness becomes disabling.
Steinberg Institute founder Darrell Steinberg, a longtime champion of mental health care and now Mayor of Sacramento, lauded the proposal as a watershed moment in the battle to establish mental health as a public policy priority in California.
“For the first time ever in my memory, mental health is a lead issue in the May revision,” Steinberg said. “This is a tipping point.”
Among the proposals laid out in the May Revise:
Homelessness – Emergency Aid: To assist locals in addressing homelessness until more state resources are available next year, the May Revision proposes emergency assistance funds as follows:
- Create a one-time Homelessness Emergency Aid block grant of $250 million that can be used for emergency housing vouchers, rapid rehousing, emergency shelter construction, and use of armories to provide temporary shelters, among other activities.
- Provide $1 million to augment the Homeless Youth and Exploitation Program for homeless and exploited youth shelters that serve unaccompanied minors.
Homelessness Prevention: Proposes $47.3 million in 2018-19 and $63.6 million ongoing to support safety net programs operated by the Department of Social Services to prevent vulnerable Californians from becoming homeless or help them obtain housing.
Homeless Mentally Ill Outreach and Treatment: Proposes a one-time augmentation of $50 million for the Department of Health Care Services to provide counties with targeted funding for multi-disciplinary teams to support intensive outreach, treatment and related services for homeless persons with mental illness. The services would be modeled on principles established during successful pilot programs set in motion by legislation Mayor Steinberg authored while in the Legislature: AB 2034 and AB 34.
No Place Like Home: The Governor calls for placing the “No Place Like Home” program on the November ballot. The Steinberg Institute was the proud sponsor of the “No Place Like Home” initiative in 2016. The legislation leveraged a small percentage of funds from the Mental Health Services Act to secure a $2 billion bond for permanent supportive housing and services for homeless people living with a serious mental illness. Two years after passage, the funding has been indefinitely delayed in the courts. Putting the issue on the fall ballot would allow voters to validate the legislation and jump-start the flow of funds.
Graduate Medical Education: To address the acute shortage of mental health professionals, the May Revision proposes an increase of $55 million to support psychiatric graduate medical education programs serving Health Professional Shortage Areas or Medically Underserved Areas in rural portions of the state.
Steinberg Institute Executive Director Maggie Merritt applauded the Governor’s proposed budget revise as a compassionate and much-needed injection of resources for California.
“The Governor’s focus on homelessness and mental health gives us great hope in our quest to ensure the most vulnerable among us receive the care they need, when they need it, and for as long as they need it,” Merritt said. “With increased outreach, housing, trained professionals and care, we’re sure to make measurable strides forward.”
Contact: Deborah Anderluh, 530-304-8180, firstname.lastname@example.org