Perhaps the most stunning achievement of the 2015-16 session was passage of the “No Place Like Home” budget initiative. With this historic legislation, the Steinberg Institute and a bipartisan coalition of partners secured $2 billion for permanent supportive housing and services for homeless people living with serious mental illness.
An estimated one-third of Californians living on the streets suffer with untreated mental illness. Traditionally, they have spiraled through a disabling and often deadly cycle, from the streets to emergency rooms and jail, absorbing a huge proportion of public resources. “No Place Like Home” will break that cycle, connecting this population with “whatever it takes” services that assist with housing, treatment, training and employment.
The state is funding the effort by re-purposing a percentage of funds generated by the 2004 Mental Health Services Act to leverage a $2 billion revenue bond and billions of dollars from local, state, and federal funds.
The 2016 passage of Assembly Bill 1299 by Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, closed a 20-year gap in mental health services for foster youth. Before our legislation, foster youth who moved between counties often had to wait months to access mental health services. Unlike medical care for their physical health, the mental health services did not automatically transfer. AB 1299 closed that loophole, creating immediate transfer of services and payment to ensure that these vulnerable young people receive an uninterrupted continuum of care.
We ushered through legislation that strengthened the safety net for students, homeless veterans and people encountering law enforcement while in the grips of mental crisis. Among the victories:
AB 168 – (Maienschein): Mental Health: Community-Based Services
This bill requires the Department of Health Care Services to give the Legislature a detailed update on funding and outcomes if California were selected to participate in a special federal program designed to improve access to community mental health and substance abuse treatment services. This bill was signed.
AB 847 – (Mullin): Community Behavioral Health Clinics
This bill requires the Department of Health Care Services to submit a proposal to the federal government seeking selection to participate in a special program designed to improve access to community mental health and substance use treatment services. This bill was signed.
AB 1299 (Ridley-Thomas) – Transfer of Care: Foster Youth
This bill closes a 20-year gap in care for tens of thousands of foster youth in California. It requires the Department of Health Care Services to ensure that mental health services follow foster children when they move between counties. This bill was signed.
AB 1618 – (Committee on Budget) – No Place Like Home
AB 1618 marks an historic effort to create permanent supportive housing for people living with serious mental illness who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This measure draws on a small percentage of funds from the 2004 Mental Health Services Act to leverage a $2 billion revenue bond and billions of additional dollars from other local, state, and federal funds. This bill was signed.
AB 2246 – (O’Donnell): Student Suicide-Prevention Policies
This bill requires local school districts that serve students in grades 7 to 12 to adopt suicide-prevention policies that address the needs of high-risk groups. This bill was signed.
SB 884 – (Beall): Student Mental Health Reporting Standards
This bill requires creation of audit procedures to determine whether funds that local school districts receive to provide mental health services to students with individualized education programs (IEPs) are being used for the intended purpose. This bill was signed.
The Steinberg Institute sponsored or supported multiple other measures in 2016 that it continued to press through legislation and policy efforts. This included:
AB 1025 – (Thurmond): Public Student Health Pilot Program
This bill would require the State Department of Education to establish a 3-year pilot program in in select school districts where 60% of the student body is eligible for a free or reduced-price meal program. This program will target the behavioral, emotional, and academic needs of pupils with multitiered and integrated mental health, special education, and school climate interventions. This bill failed passage in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
AB 1884 – (Harper): Specialized License Plates: Mental Health Awareness
This bill would require the Department of Health Care Services to work with the Department of Motor Vehicles to sponsor a license plate program where revenue generated from the license plates will be placed in a Mental Health Awareness Fund in the State Treasury. The Fund will be used for mental health awareness and education. This bill failed passage in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
AB 2017 – (McCarty): College Student Mental Health Trust
This bill would amend the Mental Health Services Act and create a College Mental Health Services Trust Account made to appropriate funds annually. This would support public community colleges, colleges, and universities in improving access to mental health services on campus, in the local community, and through their public or private health insurance. This bill was vetoed.
AB 2262 – (Levine): Prisoners: Mental Health Treatment (Co-Sponsor)
This bill would authorize a defendant who is eligible for public mental health services due to a serious mental illness to petition the court, after a conviction or the defendant’s plea but prior to sentencing, for a sentence that includes mental health treatment. This bill failed passage in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
AB 2279 – (Cooley): Mental Health Services Act Spending Reports
This bill would require the Department of Health Care Services, based on the Annual Mental Health Services Act and Expenditure Report, to compile information including the total amount of Mental Health Services Act revenue, a county- by-county comparison of fund expenditure plans and annual updates, and a county-by-county comparison of the purposes for which the funds were expended. This info will be sent to the MHSOAC to be displayed on a publicly accessible website. This bill was vetoed.
AB 2743 – (Eggman): Psychiatric Bed Registry (Co-Sponsor)
Starting July 1, 2017, this bill would require the State Department of Social Services to administer an Internet Website-based electronic registry of available acute psychiatric beds in specified health facilities for temporary detention and treatment of individuals with specified criteria for temporary detention, such as a person being a danger to him or herself, or danger to others. This bill failed passage in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
SB 614 – (Leno): Medi-Cal: Mental Health Services Peer Certification
This bill would require the Department of Health Care Services to establish a statewide peer and family support specialist certification program. The bill would require the Department to collaborate with the Office of Statewide Health and Program Development and interested stakeholders to develop the certification program. This bill failed passage in the Senate.
SB 1113 – (Beall): Pupil Health: Mental Health
This bill would allow for partnerships between county mental health and local education agencies to provide on-campus support to identify students not in special education programs who the teacher believes may require mental health services, and with parental consent, provide mental health services to those students. This bill was vetoed.
SB 1273 – (Moorlach): Crisis Stabilization Units: Funding
This bill would clarify terms of the Mental Health Services Act to allow counties to use Prop 63 funds to provide outpatient crisis stabilization services, including crisis intervention and stabilization for a person suffering acute symptoms of distress, crisis residential treatment, rehabilitative mental health services, and mobile crisis support teams on a voluntary basis. This bill failed passage in the Assembly.
SB 1466 – (Mitchell): Early and Periodic Screening: Trauma Screening
This bill would require mental health screening services under the Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Testing (EPSDT) Program to include screening for trauma. The screening will ensure that those who screen positive, receive mental health services. This bill was vetoed.
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