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Assembly Members Seek Audit of State’s Use of Mental Health Funding

On Wednesday, two state lawmakers requested that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee conduct a detailed audit of how California spends funding allocated for mental health programs, AP/U-T San Diego reports (Dreier, AP/U-T San Diego, 8/8).

Background

The Mental Health Services Act -- known as Proposition 63 -- has raised $7.4 billion through a 1% tax on residents with incomes greater than $1 million annually.

A recent Associated Press report found that tens of millions of dollars generated by Prop. 63 have been allocated to aid residents who have not been diagnosed with a mental illness. The report found that the money has been used to bolster programs such as yoga, art and drama classes, horseback riding and gardening (California Healthline, 7/31).

Last week, the same lawmakers -- Assembly members Dan Logue (R-Linda) and Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) -- requested that the Assembly Health Committee hold oversight hearings to examine the wellness programs.

Details of Audit Request

Logue acknowledged that the request for the audit was last-minute but said that it is an important issue and that he would make the request again during the next legislative session if necessary.

He said, "A lot of people are suffering out there, and it's only reasonable that we make sure the funds are going to the people who need the funding the most."

Reaction From Other Lawmakers

Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) expressed support for the audit. Wolk in a statement said, "Prevention programs are important, and some are more successful than others. But we need to fund core services first." She added, "Conducting a true performance evaluation of these expenditures, and setting priorities accordingly, could be beneficial."

Sen. Joel Anderson (R-La Mesa) in a statement said, "Wellness programs can be helpful, but not at the expense of core fundamentals of care."

Other lawmakers were generally supportive of the prevention and wellness approach but said there should be closer scrutiny of state-funded programs.

Last week, Assembly member Mike Allen (D-Santa Rosa) said, "Sometimes with wellness, it's hard to measure results. But nevertheless, we need to try."

Assembly Health Committee Chair Bill Monning (D-Monterey) said he would consider the matter for a hearing in the fall (AP/U-T San Diego, 8/8).

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