State To Release Audit on Mental Health Spending Under Prop. 63
Prop. 63 -- also known as The Mental Health Services Act -- has raised nearly $9 billion through a 1% tax on residents with incomes greater than $1 million annually.
About 75% of that funding was slated to provide services to those already diagnosed with severe mental illnesses, 20% of the funding was allocated to prevention and early intervention strategies, and the remaining funds were allocated to cover oversight, administration and innovations (Korry, "State of Health," KQED, 7/22).
However, an Associated Press report last year found that tens of millions of dollars generated by Prop. 63 have been allocated to aid residents who have not been diagnosed with a mental illness. The report found that the money has been used to bolster programs such as yoga, art and drama classes, horseback riding and gardening.
In August 2012, Assembly members Dan Logue (R-Linda) and Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) requested that the legislative committee conduct an audit of how California spends the funding.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who co-authored Prop. 63, later formally requested an audit.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said that the audit -- which began in fall 2012 -- would require 4,500 work hours and take an estimated seven to eight months to complete. She said the audit would cost nearly $450,000.
Howle said the audit would assess:
- Allocation and use of the mental health funds; and
- Performance outcomes in counties located in the five service and support areas specified in Prop. 63 (California Healthline, 8/24/12).
Debate Ahead of Audit Release
Peter Mantas -- former chair of the Contra Costa County Mental Health Commission -- said the state is inappropriately using Prop. 63 funding for "little feel-good programs" that do not have a significant effect on the larger mental health system.
Rose King -- one of the proposition's original co-authors -- said the measure has become "a model of discrimination and waste."
However, Rusty Selix -- another co-author of the measure and current director of the state Council of Community Mental Health Agencies -- said state programs that focus on early intervention are a necessary part of any mental health strategy.
He believes "the audit will affirm that 99% of the money has gone exactly where it should go."
Selix also noted that the funding originally was meant to supplement an existing $2 billion state mental health budget but that budget was cut in half during the economic recession.
UCLA psychiatrist Joel Braslow said both sides of the debate are correct, arguing that better mental health services are needed in California and that prevention and early intervention strategies are key.
"Most people are not being adequately cared for that have severe mental illness," Braslow said, adding, "What Prop. 63 has done is at least allowed for better care than would have been possible otherwise" ("State of Health," KQED, 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.