By the early part of this decade, 30 years of underfunding had left California’s mental health system in tatters. Dollars were available to serve only half those in need of services. In this crisis-driven system, individuals too often reached a crisis point before receiving care, resulting in a chronic cycle of homelessness, institutionalization or incarceration.
Voters sought to change this costly system and improve its effectiveness when they passed Prop. 63 in 2004 – providing funding designated to increase delivery of proven services to those with severe mental illness. Recognizing that reducing homelessness and incarceration – and dollars spent on institutionalization—requires taking the long view, MHSA also identified prevention and early intervention as a key priority.
In Los Angeles County alone, results show that since 2006, 528,424 people with mental illness or serious emotional disturbance have been served by MHSA-funded programs and those in crisis are more likely to find the help they need in cost-effective community services rather than costly settings like jails and institutions.
So it is concerning to read the authors of the Capitol Weekly Opinion “In California’s System of Care for the Mentally Ill, Leadership Is Lacking,” advocate for a return to a system which only serves a fraction of the population in need, and only then in the most costly settings. Read more