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Democratic Presidential candidate Kamala Harris (kamalaharris.org)

Kamala Harris Calls for ‘Mental Health Justice’

Could Presidential Candidate Harris’ plan be a re-run of California’s Mental Health Services Act?

By Lloyd Billingsley, December 1, 2019 10:03 am

“Our country is in a mental health crisis,” proclaims California Sen. Kamala Harris, and “over 45 million adults – nearly 20 percent of all U.S. adults – experience mental illness in 2017.” In 25 states, Harris explains, the suicide rate is up 30 percent or more, and the Democrat presidential candidate has a plan to address the surging problem.

“Mental health care justice is on the ballot in 2020,” and president Harris will provide “mental health on demand,” that is, “services to all Americans who need it, whenever they need it, and wherever they need it.” The plan doubles the number of treatment beds nationwide and research funds through the DoD and VA for PTSD, brain injury and “military sexual trauma.”

Candidate Harris also wants to improve conditions for the mental health workforce and offer an “education loan forgiveness program for mental health professionals.” The mental health justice plan expands federal funding for mental health professionals to accompany police officers and more funding for crisis intervention teams.

Harris unveiled the plan in South Carolina this week, and according to a WREG report, “her plan does not include price tags or details on what it would cost to double the number of treatment beds or cover her other proposals.” On the issue of costs versus results, Californians might compare a plan in their own state.

In 2004, nearly 54 percent of California voters approved Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, sponsored by state senate boss Darrell Steinberg, who hailed it as a model for the nation. The measure slapped an additional 1 percent tax on millionaires’ incomes and in its first eight years brought more than $8 billion. By 2013, many were curious where the money went.

State auditors could not account for how the money was spent and the Sacramento Bee wondered if it was “shoved down a rat hole, never to be seen again.” The San Jose Mercury News found fewer clinics across the state, and some 750,000 California adults failing to receive the mental health treatment they needed.

By 2015, Proposition 63 brought in $13.2 billion but according to Promises Still to Keep: A Second Look at the Mental Health Services Act, a 2016 report from the Little Hoover Commission, “Important questions remain unanswered: Who oversees MHSA spending, where does the money go and is the Act achieving its goals?” The Commission also found “overlapping and sometimes unaccountable bureaucracies.”

The spending of the Mental Health Services Act is evident but the results remain elusive. Californians have grounds to wonder if Kamala Harris’ “mental health care justice” would duplicate that record.

Sen. Harris supports Medicare for All and proclaims herself  a proud cosponsor of Senator Markey’s Green New Deal resolution.”  Harris also supports a 7.5 percent payroll tax increase on employers, a top tax bracket of 70 percent, and a death tax rate of 77 percent.

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