WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Behavioral health and housing organizations, families, veterans groups, first responders, health care professionals, and local elected officials are backing Governor Newsom’s proposal to transform the Mental Health Services Act and build 10,000 new community behavioral health beds across the state as it continues to make progress in the Legislature.
SACRAMENTO – A broad group of leaders, veterans, first responders, health care providers, behavioral health organizations, mayors and county supervisors met in Sacramento today to discuss a proposal for the March ballot that would create 10,000 new community beds and housing units for behavioral health patients. The $4.68 billion bond proposal cleared the Senate Housing Committee earlier this week with broad, bipartisan support – putting California closer to getting this critical help to those who need it most, and is being heard in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee later today.
WHAT GOVERNOR NEWSOM SAID: “We are facing a homelessness and behavioral health crisis in this state. We desperately need new beds to take care of those who need help, and to update and reform our existing laws to spend existing money efficiently and more effectively. With voter approval, we can finally make good on California’s decades-old promise to build the beds we need to treat people with behavioral health needs.”
The Governor’s proposed $4.68 billion bond to fund 10,000 new behavioral health beds and housing units, AB 531 by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), is being heard in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee today after passing the Senate Housing Committee earlier this week with a 9-1 vote. The behavioral health reform leaders that assembled today to discuss the proposal included administration and elected officials, and leaders from behavioral health, housing, veterans, health care, and business groups.
BIGGER PICTURE: AB 531 accompanies SB 326 by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), a two bill legislative package proposed by Governor Newsom to transform the mental health and substance use disorder services available across California. Combined, this legislative package will bring this transformation to all communities, all ages, all incomes, and build out the State’s capacity to provide behavioral health care, housing, and good jobs for Californians – with strengthened accountability for results.
WHAT COMES NEXT: The two bills will work their way through the California Legislature in the coming months. The behavioral health legislative package will go to the voters for approval in March 2024, after consideration and approval by the Legislature and Governor Newsom’s signature in 2023. The state will continue to work with leaders across the state to grow the coalition of families, veterans, first responders, health care providers, behavioral health organizations, and elected officials.
WHAT LEADERS ACROSS THE STATE ARE SAYING
SENATOR SUSAN TALAMANTES EGGMAN (D-STOCKTON): “We are facing mental health and substance abuse crises on our streets in communities throughout California. This legislation will help us transform our behavioral health system and provide critically needed support, with an emphasis on housing support, for the most vulnerable among us, many of whom are struggling with homelessness in addition to mental illness. The time to act is now.”
ASSEMBLYMEMBER JACQUI IRWIN (D-THOUSAND OAKS): “Getting veterans experiencing homelessness off the streets has long been a priority for California, but getting some of our most vulnerable veterans into needed treatment for behavioral health challenges will be transformative. One of the only groups that has seen a recent significant decline in percent of homelessness are veterans, thanks primarily to the very successful Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention (VHHP) program. Building upon VHHP, AB 531 and SB 326 will provide housing and treatment services to veterans with behavioral health challenges. Funding and expanding this program is the right thing to do, and I look forward to working with the Governor and veterans organizations to put these important advances before the voters.”
SACRAMENTO MAYOR DARRELL STEINBERG: “Nearly 20 years ago, I authored proposition 63, California’s Mental Health Services Act. Over two decades, it saved the public mental health system and helped tens of thousands of people. The Newsom administration’s bold modernization proposal will ensure that more money is spent helping and housing unsheltered Californians living with severe mental illness and substance abuse. I fully support the changes and hope the Legislature acts quickly to place the measure on the 2024 ballot.”
SAN DIEGO MAYOR TODD GLORIA: “As Mayor of San Diego and Chair of California’s Big City Mayors, I’ve pushed hard for behavioral health reforms to ensure we’re doing everything we can to get people off the streets and out of dangerous encampments, and connected to treatment and housing. Governor Newsom’s, Senator Eggman’s, and Assemblymember Irwin’s behavioral health reforms rightfully put the focus on adding thousands of new treatment beds, modernizing the Mental Health Services Act to tackle our addiction crisis, and prioritizing the most severely mentally ill individuals to make a bigger impact. Along with conservatorship reform and the CARE Act, these policies are another big step at overhauling California’s mental health laws for the better.”
LOS ANGELES COUNTY SUPERVISOR JANICE HAHN: “Los Angeles County, like the rest of the State, is grappling with the mental health and drug use crises that are feeding our homelessness emergency. But one of the biggest challenges is the limited amount of mental health housing we have available to provide people not only a safe place to stay but the treatment and care they desperately need. Governor Newsom is meeting our mental health and substance use crises head on. I support the proposed bond measure to provide much needed mental health housing here in LA County.”
LOS ANGELES COUNTY SUPERVISOR HILDA SOLIS: “I want to thank Governor Newsom for taking action to modernize the state’s behavioral health response system. Additional funding and reform is desperately needed to tackle the behavioral health crises in Los Angeles County. Skid Row which lies entirely in the First District has some of the highest rates of serious mental illness and substance use disorder in the State. I look forward to working with the Governor on these reform measures to get our unhoused populations off of the streets and into the care they need to heal.”
SAN DIEGO COUNTY SUPERVISOR NORA VARGAS: “The time is now to modernize California’s Behavioral Health System. As a firm believer that Housing is Healthcare, this new investment will help meet the shortfall in long-term, community-based behavioral health beds for counties throughout the state, ensuring our most vulnerable residents have access to the comprehensive care they need.”
SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY SUPERVISOR RAFAEL MANDELMAN: “Governor Newsom’s proposals would infuse long overdue capital and operating dollars into California’s inadequate continuum of behavioral health care. These investments begin to make good on the decades-deferred promise of community mental health care for the State’s most vulnerable residents.”