UNITED STATES NEWS

California’s Assembly votes for ballot measure that would change how mental health care is funded

Sep 12, 2023, 5:07 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers voted Tuesday to put a proposal before voters next March that would overhaul how counties pay for mental and behavioral health programs in an effort to address the state’s worsening homelessness crisis.

The bill authored by Democratic state Sen. Susan Eggman was passed by the state Assembly and will need one more vote in the Senate if it is to make the ballot.

In 2004, voters approved a special tax on millionaires to help pay for mental health programs. Money from that tax, one of the most unpredictable funding sources in the state, has mostly gone to county governments to use as they see fit under broad guidelines.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom wants changes to restrict how local governments can use that money, with an emphasis on mental health and drug and alcohol use programs. Under his plan, two-thirds of revenue from the tax would pay for services for people who are chronically homeless and with severe mental health issues and unhealthy drug and alcohol use. Counties would also be required to use the same method to track and report spending.

“The intersection of behavioral health disorders and homelessness is playing out every day on our streets, in our schools, in the smallest of rural communities, in our largest cities,” Democratic Assemblymember Jim Wood said before voting for the bill. “This provides Californians with an opportunity to weigh in on how to address this.”

The governor also wants voters’ permission to borrow $6.3 billion to pay for 10,000 new mental health treatment beds, up from an initial proposal of $4.6 billion, an increase that came after a coalition of mayors urged him to deliver more money to help cities address the homeless crisis.

California is home to more than 171,000 homeless people — about 30% of the nation’s homeless population. The state has spent more than $20 billion in the last few years to help them, with mixed results.

The initial proposal to change the tax sparked intense backlash from county officials and service providers, who worried it would take away local officials’ power to choose how to spend the money. They also worried the changes would pit programs for children against those for homeless people.

In August the administration amended the bill to address those concerns by setting aside money for children’s services and giving local governments more control. Under the changes, the state committee in charge of overseeing the money would remain independent from the governor and expand to include more members.

Republican lawmakers also praised the bill Tuesday.

“It is critical that we remove the existing barriers to supporting access to the substance abuse treatment,” Assemblymember Marie Waldron said. “Getting people who have that need through the system is going to be major.”

Lawmakers also must vote on the bill to borrow money, authored by Democratic Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, before the last day of this year’s session on Thursday. Should both bills pass, they would appear as one item on the March ballot.

The bill to reform the tax enjoys support from Sacramento Mayor Darrel Steinberg, the author of the original millionaires’ tax, and the Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit policy group that focuses on mental health and substance use. Karen Larsen, the institute’s CEO, called the changes “urgent and necessary.”

“Failure to establish standard metrics and properly track, evaluate and improve outcomes since the passage of the (Mental Health Services Act) has been one of the biggest failures of the current act,” Larsen said at a recent hearing. “Our system must be able to account for improving the lives of those living with the most significant behavioral health conditions, especially when it comes to homelessness, incarceration and hospitalization.”

But opponents of the reform efforts remain skeptical. The new mandates would result in a loss of more than $1 billion for existing programs such as mental health outpatients, crisis, recovery and peer-supported services, county officials said in a letter to Newsom over the weekend.

The legislation is among nearly 1,000 bills that lawmakers have been debating during the final two weeks of the Legislative session.

United States News

Associated Press

Primary apathy in Michigan: Democrats, GOP struggle as supporters mull whether to even vote

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Rev. Steve Bland Jr. remembers the massive get-out-the-vote effort he helped mobilize four years ago, when pastors and community leaders spread out across Detroit neighborhoods, made phone calls and worked around the clock to encourage people to vote. He’s not seeing that kind of enthusiasm this time around. Madeleine Byrne, a […]

15 minutes ago

Associated Press

Police ID suspects in killing of man on Bronx subway car as transit officials discuss rising crime

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City police identified three suspects in the killing of a man on a subway car last week, and transit authorities were set to meet Monday to discuss rising crime in the city’s transit system. The NYPD said in a post on X on Sunday that they’re seeking Justin Herde, […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Wild weather’s coming: West readies for snow as Midwest gets a taste of summer

BOSTON (AP) — A powerful winter storm is expected to dump several feet of snow in parts of West starting Monday while much of the central U.S. will be basking in unseasonably warm conditions. Windy conditions are also raising the potential for fires in several states. The National Weather Service said Monday parts of the […]

2 hours ago

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks about border security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, J...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both heading to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas on Thursday, according to AP sources

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas on Thursday after congressional talks on a deal to rein in illegal migration collapsed, according to people familiar with the plans. The visits underscore the central role immigration is going to play in the […]

3 hours ago

Donald Trump, with lawyers Christopher Kise and Alina Habba, attends the closing arguments in the T...

Associated Press

Donald Trump files notice of appeal over $454M judgment in New York civil fraud case

Donald Trump has appealed his $454 million New York civil fraud judgment, challenging a judge’s finding that Trump lied about his wealth.

3 hours ago

FILE - Former U.S. President Donald Trump, with lawyers Christopher Kise and Alina Habba, attends t...

Associated Press

Donald Trump appeals $454 million judgment in New York civil fraud case

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump has appealed his $454 million New York civil fraud judgment, challenging a he lied about his wealth as he grew the real estate empire that launched him to stardom and the presidency. The former president’s lawyers filed notices of appeal Monday asking the state’s mid-level appeals court to overturn […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

California’s Assembly votes for ballot measure that would change how mental health care is funded