Sacramento County Proposal for Mental Health Funding Criticized
Advocates for people with mental illnesses say law enforcement agencies should donate officers' and deputies' time to establish psychiatric response teams, rather than using Proposition 63 funds to pay their salaries, the Sacramento Bee reports (Lin, Sacramento Bee, 1/22). Proposition 63 was approved by voters in November 2004 to raise the state's personal income tax by 1% on annual incomes that exceed $1 million to fund mental health services.
Under the plan approved by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors last week, $500,000 in Proposition 63 funding will pay the salaries and benefits of two deputies and two police officers to launch the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team program. The program pairs law enforcement officers with mental health professionals to respond to mental health crises (California Healthline, 1/19).
Other counties that have created psychiatric emergency response teams, such as Los Angeles and San Diego counties, say the teams are effective in reducing arrests and hospitalization of people with mental illnesses. In both counties, salaries of the officers are paid by law enforcement agencies and salaries of the staff clinicians are paid by mental health agencies.
However, law enforcement officials in Sacramento say they have insufficient resources to pay for the officers.
The state will not pay for officers responding to 911 emergency calls, but Department of Mental Health spokesperson Kirsten Macintyre said the state might approve funding for officers' mental health training and related duties.
Anita Shumaker, co-chair of the Sacramento County Mental Health Board, said she is concerned that the Sacramento proposal could "set the precedent for other counties" to develop programs that allocate Proposition 63 funds to agencies not directly related to mental health care (Sacramento Bee, 1/22).