MENTAL ILLNESS: Lawmakers Pledge Expansion of Tri-County Pilot Program
California lawmakers have pledged to expand a three county pilot program that provides community-based mental health services for homeless residents. Since its creation five months ago, the program has produced "spectacular results:" more than 95% of the 1,100 people initially targeted continue to receive voluntary treatment; the number of days participants spent in jail has plummeted 81%; and the number of days participants spent in psychiatric facilities has dropped by 59%. Translating into $20 million in government savings, the results have prompted the state Legislature to expand the program funding in this year's budget. The $10- million project operated in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Stanislaus counties, linking mental health experts with social service providers and law enforcement, helping to improve mental care. State Mental Health Director Stephen Mayberg said the preliminary data shows that community-based services can work, adding, "If we are active and assertive in our outreach, we can make a difference" (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 5/2).
Further hailing the praises of the pilot program, editors at the Sacramento Bee write: "93,972 days not homeless. 30,122 days not in jail. 6,559 days not hospitalized. Those are the raw numbers that quantify the ... impressive results of an innovative state program to treat severely mentally ill homeless people." Noting that Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the author of the legislation creating the program, hopes to increase funding to $70 million, the editors conclude, "The results so far certainly justify that level of funding" (5/5).