Calif. Democrats Aim To Create, Expand Mental Health Programs
California Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and other Democratic state lawmakers have introduced a package of proposals aimed at increasing mental health training for law enforcement officers and reducing recidivism among inmates with mental illnesses, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports.
The proposals come after six people were killed last week by an individual with suspected mental health issues (Calefati, AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/28).
Background on Killings
On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six individuals by stabbing or shooting them and wounded 13 others in Isla Vista, Calif. Rodger had legally purchased three semi-automatic guns and ammunition used in the attack.
The incident occurred after Rodger's family members had contacted the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department on April 30 with concerns about his mental health. Police conducted a welfare visit and concluded that Rodger did not pose a risk (California Healthline, 5/28).
Details of Proposals
The $175 million funding package was announced during a press conference on Wednesday by Steinberg and other Democrats.
Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) revised fiscal year 2014-2015 budget proposal allocates about $90 million from a recidivism reduction fund created last year to mental health initiatives. The Democrats' new proposal would increase that amount by $40 million and add an additional $45 million from the general fund for new mental health programs.
Specifically, the plan calls for:
- $12 million to train law enforcement officers on dealing with individuals with mental illnesses;
- $20 million to hire additional case managers for individuals with mental illnesses who are on parole (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 5/28);
- $20 million to expand mental health court programs for individuals with mental health problems or substance use issues;
- $24 million to train prison staff on dealing with inmates who have mental health issues (Rosenhall, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 5/28);
- $25 million to boost re-entry programs for inmates with mental illnesses who are released on parole (Ventura County Star, 5/28); and
- $50 million to restore a grant program aimed at offering treatment, job training and other resources to recently released inmates with mental illnesses ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 5/28).
The proposals are based on a recently released report by Stanford Law School's Three Strikes Project that found the recidivism rate in the state could be significantly reduced by changing sentencing practices, offering better treatment to inmates and continuing such care after individuals are released from jail or prison (AP/Contra Costa Times, 5/28).
Reaction From Law Enforcement
Law enforcement advocates largely are supporting the package of mental health measures, according to KQED's "State of Health."
Craig Brown, a lobbyist with the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said law enforcement officials "need more training and better resources," adding, "We know we've been accumulating more and more inmates with mental illness" (Dembosky, "State of Health," KQED, 5/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.