MENTAL HEALTH: Pilot Program Merits Expansion
Expanding the state's pilot program to assist the mentally ill is "common sense," a Santa Rosa Press-Democrat editorial asserts. The editorial points to the success of the 1999 program that provided housing and psychiatric and vocational rehabilitation services to more than 1,000 people in Los Angeles, Stanislaus and Sacramento counties. According to a study by the California Department of Mental Health, the program reduced jail incarcerations by 74% and cut hospital stays in half, resulting in $21 million of cost savings. Currently, the editorial notes, the state's criminal justice system holds an estimated 30,000 mentally ill people at an annual cost of $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion. Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who sponsored last year's legislation, is now pushing for the program's expansion to help other counties, including Sonoma County, where a mental health court has been established as "part of an ongoing effort to acknowledge that jail is not the best or most cost-effective way to help the mentally ill." The editorial maintains that "[w]hat happens now in Sacramento depends on the compassion of Gov. Gray Davis (D) and the California Legislature." The editorial argues that first, "Davis must resist the political temptation" to cut $62 million in proposed funding from the state budget. Next, the editorial notes, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee must approve AB 2034, "the enabling legislation for these new programs." However, the editorial laments that "narrow political agendas sometimes trample common sense and the larger public interest. For the mentally ill, what happens this week will tell the tale" (6/27).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.