California Releases Additional $64M for Mental Health Services
On Wednesday, the Department of Mental Health released $64 million for mental health services to counties, funds that mental health care advocates said could be used to mitigate Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) elimination of a program for homeless people with mental illnesses, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The $64 million comes from money that was not spent on administration of Proposition 63, a 2004 ballot measure that increased the state income tax on high-income residents to raise funds for mental health care. The measure requires DMH to disburse unspent Proposition 63 funds to the counties (Gold/Romney, Los Angeles Times, 9/13).
In August, the governor used his line-item veto authority to remove $55 million from the fiscal year 2007-2008 state budget for Integrated Services for Homeless Adults with Serious Mental Illness, a program that provides housing and treatment to homeless people with mental illnesses (California Healthline, 9/4).
Schwarzenegger administration officials said counties could maintain services for the program using funds from other sources, possibly including Proposition 63 (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 9/13).
County mental health directors contend that using Proposition 63 funds to cover the program would be a violation of the ballot initiative, which prohibits counties from using the money to fund current programs (California Healthline, 9/4).
Because of that provision, counties would have to create new programs to provide services for mentally ill homeless people, not simply use Proposition 63 funds to continue existing programs, according to Sen. Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who wrote Proposition 63 (Los Angeles Times, 9/13).
Kirsten Deichert, a spokesperson for DMH, said that the new funds are unrelated to the state budget. She said that counties could use the new money in accordance with guidelines that the state has not yet released, but Deichert noted that the money could not be used for county programs that lost funding under the governor's line-item veto (Sacramento Bee, 9/13).