Steinberg Institute leaders join Governor Newsom to sign MHSA reform legislation into law

Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at behavioral health bill signing ceremony

(Los Angeles) Steinberg Institute founder Darrell Steinberg and CEO Karen Larsen joined Governor Gavin Newsom as he signed legislation to modernize California’s landmark Mental Health Services Act.

The signing, held at the historic Los Angeles General Medical Center, marks a significant milestone in the history of behavioral health treatment in California. The Governor signed SB 326 (Eggman) and AB 531 (Irwin) at the ceremony.

SB 326 transforms several aspects of the 2004 Mental Health Services Act, co-authored by current Sacramento mayor, Darrell Steinberg. AB 531 (Irwin) proposes a $4.68 Billion bond to build 10,000 new behavioral health beds and supportive housing units across California.

The legislation includes significant changes to modernize and reform the state behavioral health system. The flagship elements of this package of reforms are changes to how counties allocate MHSA revenues and strengthening the state’s apparatus to measure behavioral health outcomes and accountability with an equity focus.

In August, the Steinberg Institute released a report examining the MHSA modernization proposal, finding it to be in line with the original intent of the Mental Health Services Act. The report also noted that concerns about shifting money away from prevention and early intervention services and undermining oversight of behavioral health are unfounded. In September, Steinberg Institute leaders testified before legislative committees in support of SB 326.

Steinberg Institute founder Darrell Steinberg and Governor Gavin Newsom speak to the media.

Steinberg Institute founder Darrell Steinberg and Governor Gavin Newsom speak to the media.

At today’s signing, our founder, Mayor Darrell Steinberg, thanked the Governor for his leadership and noted that today’s historic signing moves California dramatically closer to making good on the unfulfilled promise of the 1963 Community Mental Health Act, signed into law by President Kennedy.

In his remarks before signing the legislation, Governor Newsom highlighted the importance of accountability in implementation. He also noted the critical support of the Steinberg Institute’s founder in gathering legislative approval of the bills.

Said Governor Newsom, “This wouldn’t have happened unless he asserted himself and his moral leadership in this process and said, ‘As the author of the MHSA, we need to reform this. We need to include substance abuse. We need to include housing as a foundational component. We need to advance a workforce, where we have ongoing funding to address the crisis of workforce.’”

The proposals now go to California voters as Proposition 1 on the March 2024 ballot. If approved, they would become effective July 1, 2026.

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