Program for Children with Severe Mental Disabilities May Be Eliminated in State Budget Negotiations
A state program that provides care for an estimated 500,000 California children with severe mental and emotional disabilities may "become a casualty" in the debate over the state's fiscal year 2002-2003 budget, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Children's System of Care, established in the mid-1980s, provides services for children in 52 California counties with conditions such as autism, severe depression and eating and bipolar disorders. Under the program, developed to allow children to reside at home rather than in "expensive, potentially traumatic" day care centers, case workers access services for children from a number of state agencies. In May, Gov. Gray Davis (D) proposed eliminating of the $35 million System of Care program in his revised budget proposal to address the state's estimated $23.6 billion deficit. The Senate budget proposal, passed in late June, would restore funds for System of Care, but the Assembly proposal would not allocate funds for the program. Davis spokesperson Steve Maviglio said that the governor supports the Senate proposal to provide funds for System of Care, but he added, "The only thing from keeping this (program from continuing) are the Assembly Republicans who want $5 billion more in cuts, and this would certainly be on their list." Assembly Republicans said that although they do not oppose System of Care, the state must eliminate the program to "bring its spending under control." Supporters of System of Care said that eliminating the program would lead to an increase in hospitalizations and other problems for children with severe mental disabilities. "If we eliminate all of the most effective mental health program models, we are setting our state's mental health policies back years," Assembly member Helen Thomson (D-Davis) said (Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/22).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.