California Senate Republicans announced Monday they are calling for investing $10 billion in California’s mental health crisis in the state’s burgeoning homeless population. The Republicans sent a letter to Senate Budget Chairwoman Nancy Skinner and Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting, proposing that the Legislature set aside $10 billion from the current General Fund surplus to create and fund a new Mental Health Infrastructure Fund.
“The goal is to develop new county mental health and addiction treatment facilities, and new centers for behavioral-health focused education to expand the treatment workforce in order to help Californians struggling with mental health and substance abuse,” the letter says.
Thus far, years in to the homeless crisis, state and local officials and elected leaders have pushed the outdated “Housing first” policy of the Obama administration.
“Housing first” primarily benefits developers and contractors, and not those living on the streets, drug addicted and suffering from mental health issues.
The The Mental Health Infrastructure Fund will come from the state’s estimated $45.7 billion dollar surplus. The program would provide access to care for individuals who are unable to care for themselves due to untreated illness or addiction.
The Republicans’ infrastructure fund is a two-step strategy that would extend the state’s temporary funding program to purchase, construct, or rehabilitate properties into new, long overdue county mental health and addiction treatment facilities and create new centers for behavioral-health-focused education in order to expand the treatment workforce.
“According to a recent report conducted by the RAND Corporation and financed by the California Mental Health Services Authority, California has a deficit of 4,767 subacute and acute psychiatric treatment beds,” the Senators say in the letter. “If we add in lower acuity treatment beds in community residential facilities, that deficit increases to 7,730. The report goes on to say that the acute bed deficit is severe in the inland regions of California, especially the Central Valley.”
“This report highlights how years of misplaced budget priorities have neglected the growth of mental health infrastructure, leaving us poorly equipped to respond to the homelessness crisis visible on our streets. The report’s first recommendation is that a ‘significant investment is needed’ in psychiatric bed infrastructure. This request funds that ‘significant investment.’”
“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,” said Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel). “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. There is no real path to solving California’s homelessness crisis that does not involve expanding treatment capacity. If we do not do this now, we’ll never do it, and too many Californians will continue to needlessly suffer.”
Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) said, “Up until recently, Democrats in the Legislature were following Governor Newsom’s ‘My way, or the highway’ attitude about the homelessness issue. And their approach led to just that – more homeless encampments popping up on our highways. We need to clear homeless encampments off our streets, out of our parks, and off of other public property in a humane and compassionate way. Our proposed Mental Health Infrastructure Fund is an excellent first step in helping solve homelessness in California. We must invest part of the budget surplus towards common-sense solutions that create a better California by helping care for persons who are unable to care for themselves.”
“Furthermore, the plan calls for taking advantage of California’s prestigious higher education system by creating new centers which would focus the establishment of a new California State University at Stockton that specializes in behavioral health care-focused degrees.”
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