Suit Seeks To Overturn Schwarzenegger Veto of Mental Health Funds
On Thursday, three mental health advocacy groups filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) elimination of funds for a program that provides housing, psychiatric treatment and other social services for people with severe mental illnesses, the Los Angeles Times reports. The suit seeks to:
- Restore state funding to the Integrated Services for Homeless Adults with Serious Mental Illnesses program, also known as AB 2034;
- Require the state to continue funding the program; and
- Declare that Schwarzenegger acted illegally, a provision that is intended to serve as a precedent in barring similar actions in the future (Gold/Romney, Los Angeles Times, 12/14).
In August, Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto authority to cut $55 million in state funding for the program as part of a larger budget agreement with Senate Republicans. The governor said he supported the aim of the program and urged counties to use money from Proposition 63 to provide similar services.
In 2004, California voters approved the initiative, which increases the state income tax on high-income individuals to expand mental health services (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 12/14).
The program operated in 32 of California's 58 counties at the time of the funding cut.
A provision of Proposition 63 bars the state from reducing funding for mental health programs, but advocates and the Schwarzenegger administration interpret the law differently (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/14).
H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance, said that the administration believes the law bars the state from cutting overall mental health funding, adding that in fiscal year 2007-2008 California allocated $741 million from the general fund for mental health programs, up from $558 million in FY 2003-2004.
Conversely, advocates maintain that the initiative preserves funding for each mental health program in effect when Proposition 63 took effect (Los Angeles Times, 12/14).
As plaintiffs, the lawsuit names four individuals and the:
- California Network of Mental Health Clients;
- Mental Health Association of California; and
- National Alliance on Mental Illness California (Sacramento Bee, 12/14).
The governor and Department of Mental Health Director Stephen Mayberg are named as defendants in the suit.
The case was filed in Alameda County (Los Angeles Times, 12/14). 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.