California Legislative Republicans have asked for $10 billion to be set aside to provide mental health services to individuals experiencing homelessness in the state.
The Republicans suggested putting the money from the general fund into a Mental Health Infrastructure Fund to develop new county mental health and addiction treatment centers and behavioral health-focused education facilities to expand the treatment workforce.
Republicans outlined their plan in a letter to Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who chair budget committees in their respective chambers.
“We’ve ignored the mental health and substance abuse treatment needs of far too many Californians for far too long, mostly because we have failed to invest in the facilities and workforce necessary to provide the needed help,” Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said. “We have an unprecedented budget surplus at the same time we have an unprecedented need for mental health and substance abuse care. The budget surplus will go away, but the mental health and substance abuse treatment needs will not.”
“We can be both smart and compassionate with this surplus,” Sen. Bates continued.
The Republicans’ letter cited a 2019 California Future Health Workforce Commission study which predicted the state will fall short of the necessary numbers of behavioral health professionals by 2030. It also pointed to a recent RAND Corporation report which said California has a deficit of more than 4,700 subacute and acute psychiatric treatment beds.
The first component of their plan — the temporary program to create new county mental health addiction and treatment facilities — would determine project needs by counties where the bed capacity per population is the lowest. Prioritization would be given to counties where acute bed deficits are most severe, according to the letter.
Funding would be made available over the course of four years to cut down on the bed deficit, and any leftover funds would be diverted to the Department of State Hospitals for an expansion of bed capacity.
The $10 billion would also be used to establish a new California State University in Stockton specializing in behavioral health care-focused degrees, according to the letter. The funding would be used for planning, design and construction of the school.
Additionally, the funds would be utilized to establish mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics on every University of California and California State University campus so students can experience serving those individuals.
“Not a single community can ignore the growing plight of our mentally ill and addicted homeless population and its effects on the homeless themselves, the quality of life in our state, and California’s economic vitality,” the letter said. “Major gaps in the mental health system have persisted for decades, but it doesn’t have to remain this way. We can begin helping by caring for persons who are unable to care for themselves due to untreated illness and addiction.”
Sen. Brian Jones, R-Santee, called the Mental Health Infrastructure Fund a “first step” in solving homelessness in California.
Last month, legislative Republicans held a press conference from the steps of the Capitol to announce a comprehensive package to tackle homelessness. The package focused on accountability, compassion and treatment, the lawmakers said.
The bill package included a requirement for the governor to report annually the actions the state and local governments took to reduce homelessness and mandate local governments report expenditures on programs to reduce homelessness, clean up areas, provide mental health and substance abuse services and more.
Other bills included legal protections for places of worship that provide shelters or services to those experiencing homelessness, an allowance for local governments to use Clean California and other highway beautification program funds for camp cleanup efforts and a requirement for the state auditor to review the impact of funds used to combat homelessness.
And Gov. Gavin Newsom recently proposed a CARE Court (Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment) plan. The idea is to get a person with an untreated mental health illness or substance use issue into a court-ordered “Care Plan” that can last one to two years. email: email@example.com