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.
Among the specific proposals:
- $500 million in state funding to site and build emergency shelters and permanent supportive housing for people who are living homeless with a serious mental illness.
- Expediting allocation of bond awards from the “No Place Like Home” program, which will generate $2 billion in new funding to get people who are living homeless with serious mental illness off the streets and into long-term recovery.
- Streamlining California’s Environmental Quality Act to make it easier to build housing and treatment facilities for people with serious mental illness.
- $100 million to expand “whole-person care” pilot programs, which offer intensive wrap-around services to people with progressed and debilitating mental illness.
- $50 million to grow the mental health workforce by increasing training opportunities.
- $45 million to fund screening for ACES – or Adverse Childhood Experiences. This is rooted in research that has found a direct correlation between chronic adversity in childhood and later onset of physical and mental illness. That same research has found that early detection and intervention can reverse that damage.
- $25 million for innovative programs that provide effective early detection and treatment for young people in the early stages of psychosis-related illness.
- $5.3 million to bolster mental health counseling at University of California campuses.
- $20 million to expand training for law enforcement on how to de-escalate encounters with people in psychiatric crisis.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who founded the Steinberg Institute in 2015 to advance sound public policy on issues of brain health, is among Newsom’s close advisors and has worked with him during the transition. He welcomed Newsom’s proposals as visionary, saying the new governor showed a clear understanding of the need to be more assertive and deliberate in elevating mental health as a public policy priority.
“I am beyond gratified at the investment Governor Newsom is proposing in mental health care,” Steinberg said. “He lays the groundwork here for transformational change, investing in evidence-based practices that we know will have impact and setting the stage for a far more strategic and thoughtful approach to care.”
Along with the financial investments, Newsom’s budget works to decriminalize mental illness through various avenues. Among them: moving the Division of Juvenile Justice out of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and into the Health and Human Services Agency.
The new governor emphasized his intention to generate more philanthropic investment in mental health care and to promote more partnerships between the public and private sectors. His new mental health czar, he said, would bridge those two worlds.
Maggie Merritt, Executive Director of the Steinberg Institute, applauded what she described as a new era of hope for the one in four families in California grappling with mental illness.
“California has long had the resources to be a global leader in mental health care, but we have lacked the bold vision and firm intentions needed to set us on that path,” Merritt said. “That changed today. We look forward to partnering with Governor Newsom to make California a model for the nation.”