Newsom is pushing for support for the March ballot measure to reform California’s mental health care system

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Newsom is pushing for support for the March ballot measure to reform California’s mental health system

Homepage News, California Politics, 2024 Elections, Mental Health

Caroline Petrow-Cohen

January 3, 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom gathered with city leaders and public safety officials on Wednesday to urge support for Proposition 1, an overhaul of the state’s mental health care system that will take place during California’s March 5 primary.

The measure

if passed by voters,

would reform California’s Mental Health Services Act and create a $6.4 billion bond to provide 10,000 new behavioral health beds. The plan would redirect existing funding to expand substance abuse and mental health services.

We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing, Newsom said Wednesday at Los Angeles General Medical Center, where he was joined by mental health workers as well as Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and LA County Sheriff Robert Luna.

“Everything people have told us they desperately need and expect from us, we’ve included in Proposition 1,” Newsom said.

The California Legislature, with rare bipartisan support, voted in September to put Newsom’s plan to a vote.

Supporters say the proposal makes much-needed improvements to the Mental Health Services Act, which voters approved in 2004. The law introduced a 1% tax on personal income above $1 million per year to fund mental health care in the province.

Proposal 1 would direct 30% of that funding, or about $1 billion per year, to supportive housing for people with serious mental illness or substance use disorders.

Bass said the new funding model would address the root causes of homelessness rather than just treating the symptoms.

We can get people off the streets, but you have to first address why they weren’t housed, she said Wednesday.

Opponents of the proposal argue it would disrupt mental health services already run by the counties. Californians Against Proposition 1 One Director Paul Simmons said he believes the Mental Health Services Act is effective as is, and that building more behavioral health beds is not the solution.

“I believe it will do more harm than good,” Simmons said. They don’t build housing for the homeless, they just lock them up.

The $1 billion in diverted funds means significantly less mental health resources for the counties, Simmons said.

Californians largely support Proposition 1, polls show. According to a December poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, two-thirds of likely voters said they would vote yes on the proposal.

A separate poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times and conducted in November, found that 60% of likely voters supported the ballot measure. Only 15% of likely voters had previously heard of the proposal.

As the primary proponent of the ballot measure, Newsom has worked to rally support from a wide range of city and state officials. The governor said the measure, if approved, would allow California to make tangible progress on the homelessness crisis.


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