Calif. Lawmaker Calls for Audits of Prop. 63 Mental Health Funding
On Friday, Assembly member Dan Logue (R-Linda) announced that he will introduce legislation to require regular, intensive audits of how all 58 counties in California use mental health funds raised under Proposition 63, AP/U-T San Diego reports.
The announcement followed the release of a state audit finding that California agencies have not properly overseen how Prop. 63 funds are spent (Williams, AP/U-T San Diego, 8/16).
Prop. 63 -- also known as the Mental Health Services Act -- has raised nearly $9 billion through a 1% tax on residents with incomes greater than $1 million annually.
About 75% of that funding was slated to provide services to those already diagnosed with severe mental illnesses, 20% of the funding was allocated to prevention and early intervention strategies, and the remaining funds were allocated to cover oversight, administration and innovations.
However, an Associated Press report last year 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.
Details of State Audit
State Auditor Elaine Howle said that the audit -- which began in fall 2012 and was released Thursday -- assessed:
- Allocation and use of the mental health funds; and
- Performance outcomes in counties.
The audit focused on four counties:
- Los Angeles;
- San Bernardino; and
- Santa Clara.
The audit found that none of the agencies responsible for oversight of Prop. 63 funds had "undertaken serious efforts" to evaluate the effectiveness of mental health programs receiving the funding.
According to the audit, state officials failed to:
- Conduct program reviews or on-site evaluations of county mental health programs; and
- Ensure that counties consistently reported required data about their clients.
In addition, it states that a framework for evaluating county programs was not created until eight years after Prop. 63 was approved.
State Auditor's Recommendations
The audit offers several recommendations for improving oversight of county mental health programs. For example, it directs the state Department of Health Care Services to:
- Improve contracts it has with counties to ensure greater oversight;
- Conduct on-site reviews; and
- More adequately collect data from programs.
The report also recommends that lawmakers pass a measure that would allow the state to withhold Prop. 63 funds from counties that do not report required data (California Healthline, 8/16).
In a statement, Logue -- vice chair of the Assembly Health Committee -- said, "When voters approved higher taxes in 2004 to spend more on mental health, they expected those taxes to treat those who are seriously ill ... [y]et government bureaucrats have spent millions on questionable priorities."
He added, "The Governor and the Legislature must hold counties accountable and do whatever is necessary to end the wasteful spending" (Logue release, 8/16).
Logue said he is seeking bipartisan support for a measure requiring regular audits of county mental health funding. He plans to introduce the measure in 2014 (Sacramento Bee, 8/16).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.