Investigation Identifies Challenges With State Mental Health Funding
A Bay Area News Group investigation has identified several hurdles in the state's efforts to fund mental health programs through the Mental Health Services Act, which voters approved in 2004 as Proposition 63, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Prop. 63 imposed a tax on people with annual incomes above $1 million to raise money for mental health services. Since it took effect in January 2005, the tax has generated $7.4 billion.
In the last two years, California has cut state spending on mental health services by $587.4 million, or 16.3%, according to a report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
In addition, the number of people receiving services from state mental health funding has declined from 658,314 in 2007 to 442,691 last year.
County Officials' Concerns
County officials say the state Department of Mental Health created challenges when it placed restrictions on how Prop. 63 funds could be spent.
Under the restrictions, the funding could not bolster existing state and county-funded mental health services, which faced major funding losses as a result of the economic downturn.
Instead, Prop. 63 funding could go only toward new clients in new programs. As a result, some counties used the funds to hire costly consultants or fund new programs that were loosely linked to mental health services, the Bay Area News Group investigation found.
Defending Prop. 63
Supporters of Prop. 63 acknowledge there have been problems with the implementation of the Mental Health Services Act, but they note that it has provided much-needed mental health funding at a crucial time.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said the act is "helping thousands of people who would otherwise have nothing in a grossly underfunded system" (de SÃ¡, San Jose Mercury News, 6/26).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.