Report Details Effects of Calif.’s Mental Health Services Act
Rates of homelessness, arrests and incarcerations for individuals receiving treatment for mental health issues have all declined under legislation by former Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), according to a report released Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times' "PolitiCal" reports.
Since it was approved in 2004, Proposition 63 -- also known as the Mental Health Services Act -- has raised more than $13 billion for mental health services through a 1% tax on residents with incomes greater than $1 million annually, according to the Little Hoover Commission, a California watchdog group.
However, the law has been criticized for a lack of accountability (Mason, "PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 3/11).
In 2012, an Associated Press report found that tens of millions of dollars generated by Prop. 63 had been allocated to help residents who had not been diagnosed with a mental illness, while some money had been used to bolster programs such as yoga, art and drama classes, horseback riding, and gardening.
In 2013, a state audit found that none of the agencies responsible for oversight of Prop. 63 funds had "undertaken serious efforts" to evaluate the effectiveness of mental health programs receiving the funding and failed to:
- Conduct program reviews or on-site evaluations of county mental health programs; and
- Ensure that counties consistently reported required data about their clients (California Healthline, 8/19/13).
Details of Report
The report released this week was commissioned by Steinberg and compiled by the:
- County Behavioral Health Directors Association (Rosenhall, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 3/11); and
- Steinberg Institute for Advancing Behavioral Health Policy and Leadership.
Researchers examined the treatment of more than 35,000 individuals with mental health issues who qualified for services under Mental Health Services Act in fiscal year 2011-2012 ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 3/11). The researchers analyzed about half of the $947 million spent on the law's programs during that year ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 3/11).
According to the report, among individuals who participated in programs under the law:
- Arrests declined by 82%;
- Homelessness rates dropped by 47% ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 3/11);
- Psychiatric hospitalizations fell by 42% ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 3/11); and
- Incarcerations decreased by 27% ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 3/11).
The declines resulted in savings of more than $87.4 million, according to the report.
Steinberg said this report was one of several he plans to commission to document the effects of the Mental Health Services Act. One future report will address a program -- created by the law -- on preventing mental health issues, which has received criticism for misusing funds, according to "Capitol Alert" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 3/11).
He said, "The public has every right to know exactly how these dollars are being spent and what results are being attained because of this investment" ("PolitiCal," Los Angeles Times, 3/11).
In addition, Steinberg noted that his organization plans to sponsor several bills in the state Legislature related to mental health services, veterans, criminal justice and education ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 3/11).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.