Nearly 15 years ago, California voters passed Proposition 63, now known as the Mental Health Services Act. The proposition imposed a 1 percent tax on people earning more than $1 million annually to pay for more mental health services. The measure raises about $2 billion each year.
Los Angeles County, which receives the largest share of the money, commissioned a study by the Rand Corporation about the results of the new services. The study was based on data from 2012 to 2016 and interviews with participants. Here are excerpts about the findings, as reported by Kaiser Health News.
“The money is ‘critically important’ for the community mental health system and for people who need treatment but haven’t been served well in traditional ways, said Toby Ewing, executive director of the state’s Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission. “We can only imagine the challenges we would face if those funds weren’t available.”
The funds go beyond the more basic services that counties traditionally provide, helping to pay for workers to reach out to homeless people and triage patients with mental health issues in hospitals, he said.
The report covered two main programs — one for prevention and early intervention of mental illness in young people and another aimed at improving outcomes for people with serious mental illness.
Those who participate in the second program are in and out of jails and hospitals, and really need intensive services, according to Debbie Innes-Gomberg, the department’s deputy director. She said she was pleased Rand found that the services are making a difference. ‘It is a very good investment,’ she said, adding that the county plans to add more participants this year.”
Here is the key finding from the report itself.
“The evaluation found evidence that the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (LAC DMH) is reaching the highly vulnerable population it seeks to reach with its FSP and youth PEI programs. Furthermore, those reached by the programs experience improvements in their mental health and life circumstances.”
Passage of the referendum in California’s tax-weary state took determination, political shrewdness, and a sense of how to sell the need for more services. Check the next blog post for information about how advocates made their case.