Work Accelerates on Historic Transformation of California’s Mental Health System


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The passage of Proposition 1 by California voters adds rocket fuel to Governor Gavin Newsom’s transformational overhaul of the state’s behavioral health system. These reforms refocus existing funds to prioritize Californians with the most serious mental health and substance use issues, who are too often experiencing homelessness. They also fund more than 11,150 new behavioral health beds and supportive housing units and 26,700 outpatient treatment slots.

LOS ANGELES — California took a major step forward in correcting the damage from 50 years of neglect to the state’s mental health system with the passage of Proposition 1. This historic measure — a signature priority of Governor Gavin Newsom — adds rocket fuel to California’s overhaul of the state’s behavioral health systems. It provides a full range of mental health and substance abuse care, with new accountability metrics to ensure local governments deliver for their communities.

“This is the biggest reform of the California mental health system in decades and will finally equip partners to deliver the results all Californians need and deserve. Treatment centers will prioritize mental health and substance use support in the community like never before. Now, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and begin implementing this critical reform – working closely with city and county leaders to ensure we see results.” – Governor Gavin Newsom

The newly passed initiative builds on the Newsom Administration’s prior investments (here & here) and reforms (here & here), and will enable California to fully transform its behavioral health system for the first time in 20 years.

WHY THIS MATTERS: These reforms focus billions of dollars in existing funds to prioritize Californians with the most serious mental health and substance use issues, too often experiencing homelessness, jail, and crisis hospitalizations. The $6.38 billion bond will provide funding to build more than 11,150 new behavioral health beds and supportive housing units and 26,700 outpatient treatment slots – capacity that will touch many tens of thousands of people’s lives every year – filling critical needs across the state for everyone from homeless veterans to kids suffering from depression, to elders facing isolation, and everyone in between. Polling from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found an overwhelming majority (87%) of Californians say there is a mental health crisis in the United States.

  • Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, original author of the Mental Health Services Act“Twenty years ago, I never could have dreamed that we would have the strong leadership we have today, committing billions and making courageous policy changes that question the conventional wisdom on mental health. Now, with the passage of Proposition 1. California is delivering on decades old promises to help people living with brain-based illnesses, to live better lives, to live independently and to live with dignity in our communities. This is a historic moment and the hard work is ahead of us.“
  • Senator Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), author of Senate Bill 326: “Today marks a day of hope for thousands of Californians who are struggling with mental illness – many of whom are living unhoused. I am tremendously grateful to my fellow Californian’s for passing this important measure.  And I am very appreciative of this Governor’s leadership to transform our behavioral health care system!”
  • Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), author of Assembly Bill 531: “This started as an audacious proposal to address the root cause of homelessness and today, Californians can be proud to know that they did the right thing by passing Proposition 1. Now, it’s time for all of us to get to work, and make sure these reforms are implemented and that we see results.”

BIGGER PICTURE: Transforming the Mental Health Services Act into the Behavioral Health Services Act and building more community mental health treatment sites and supportive housing is the last main pillar of Governor Newsom’s Mental Health Movement – pulling together significant recent reforms like 988 crisis line, CalHOPE, CARE Court, conservatorship reform, CalAIM behavioral health expansion (including mobile crisis care and telehealth), Medi-Cal expansion to all low-income Californians, Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (including expanding services in schools and on-line), Older Adult Behavioral Health Initiative, Veterans Mental Health Initiative, Behavioral Health Community Infrastructure Program, Behavioral Health Bridge Housing, Health Care Workforce for All and more.