MENTAL HEALTH: Troubled State Program Faces Tough Obstacles
With the state Assembly slashing funds for a variety of mental health programs, and Democratic lawmakers wrestling over how much authority government should have to treat severely mentally ill people who refuse care, reform for California's struggling mental health system remains up in the air, the Los Angeles Times reports. A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Helen Thomson (D-Davis), which would allow the state to treat "involuntary patients" in extreme cases, will reach the floor as early as this week, although the state Appropriations Committee has stripped the measure of any funding. The proposal, expected to divide legislators, preludes a budget fight between lawmakers and the governor as the new fiscal year approaches. While the state Senate is calling for a $300 million increase beyond Gov. Gray Davis' (D) $2.5 billion proposal for mental health care, the Assembly backed Davis' plan, cutting $110 million from an array of programs. The Assembly, however, boosted other health care initiatives. "I'm not pleased at all. Again, mental health takes a back seat to health care, even though mental health should be part of the overall system," Thomson said. About two dozen bills aimed at overhauling the system are being considered by lawmakers, but, without funding, the programs would have little meaning. "My sense is that mental health took an exceptionally large hit," Bruce Saltzer, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Agencies, said, adding, "We thought the Assembly was going to be very supportive" (Morain, 5/30).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.