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May 14, 2024

California moves faster to transform mental health system for all, with urgent focus on most seriously ill & homeless

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: California is accelerating the distribution of billions of dollars in new funding available to counties and others to construct outpatient, inpatient, and residential behavioral health facilities and creating new mental health resources for Californians across the state.

REDWOOD CITY – Today, while visiting a behavioral health treatment center under ongoing expansion in San Mateo County, Governor Newsom announced the state is accelerating – in record time – the first round of funding, made available by Prop 1, to boost California’s ongoing transformation of the statewide Behavioral Health system.

In addition to announcing the faster availability of billions of dollars in Behavioral Health Bond construction funding – through the recently passed Prop. 1 – Governor Newsom announced a new website: MentalHealth.ca.gov, which will serve as a one-stop source for people in need of mental health support and includes information about the state’s ongoing behavioral health transformation. And while visiting San Mateo County, Governor Newsom announced the county would be an early adopter of the CARE Act, not waiting for the December 1 deadline to bring lifesaving help to people with untreated schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic disorders.

“California is moving full steam ahead, getting funding out faster, and implementing key reforms sooner to better help Californians. The status quo is simply unacceptable. People are demanding more accountability, with real results. That is what we are aiming to deliver, but the state cannot do it alone – it is time for local officials to step up and begin to use the tools available to them to make our communities healthier and safer for all. San Mateo has stepped up. Now it’s time for other counties to do the same.”

Governor Gavin Newsom

The Redwood City location is utilizing investments from the Behavioral Health Bridge Housing (BHBH) program, which, since 2022, has provided funding to short-term “bridge” housing settings to address the immediate and sustainable housing needs of people experiencing homelessness who have serious behavioral health conditions. Treatment centers and campuses like the one highlighted today will be possible all across the state thanks to the recently passed $6.38 Billion bond which builds on state-funded construction over the last three years to open new treatment and housing sites with each passing month.

NEW BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CONSTRUCTION FUNDING: Eligible entities, which include counties, cities, tribal entities, non-profits, and for profits, will be able to apply for funding from the first round of the $6.38 billion bond this summer. This bond application timeline is months ahead of the initial schedule, thanks to the work of the Governor’s internal strike team focused on getting results and implementation as quickly as possible.

  • DETAILS: The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has issued its bond guidance for behavioral health treatment beds and sites (for $3.3 billion, or 75%, of the $4.4 billion overall, for Launch Ready projects), with the request for application to be posted this summer. Additionally, the California Health and Human Services Agency, California Veterans Affairs Agency (CalVet), and the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) at the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency have jointly briefed county, city, and other community and local leaders on their role in implementing this historic transformation and the resources and tools available to them. HCD, with CalVet, will issue its bond guidance for supportive housing ($2 billion overall, with $1 billion for veterans) by end of 2024.

  • WHY THIS MATTERS: A RAND study and a DCHS needs assessment identified a current gap in behavioral health inpatient treatment beds and outpatient treatment centers in California – making it harder for people to get the treatment they need. Cutting tape and moving faster to get bond funding out means key behavioral health infrastructure sites can be built faster. That means more beds and more treatment slots for Californians who need them to get the support and care they need to get healthy. Similarly, supportive housing units will help re-house and keep housed people with both housing and behavioral health challenges who too often suffer on the streets and in our jails.

NEW MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES WEBSITE: Additionally, Governor Newsom announced the launch of MentalHealth.CA.gov, a one-stop website for people seeking mental health resources available to Californians. Accompanying these life-saving resources is initial high-level information and resources about the ongoing transformation of the state’s behavioral health system, with even more details and local tracking tools coming online in the coming months. This will help Californians see how their own county government is using the tools and resources already available to them.

  • WHY CALIFORNIANS SHOULD CARE: Governor Newsom is focused on transparency and accountability as the state implements this voter approved Proposition. Version 1.0 of this website has initial information on implementation and current tools available to counties who administer the state’s behavioral health system. This website will continue to be built out to include additional details and data, so people will be able to see how their county compares to other California counties.

CARE ACT EXPEDITED IN SAN MATEO COUNTY: And while in San Mateo County today, Governor Newsom spoke about the county moving to adopt the CARE Act earlier than others – showing real progress and a need from locals to utilize all of the tools currently available to them for the results Californians are demanding.

  • DETAILS: Over the last 6 months, California’s Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS) traveled the state performing “site visits” with each of the eight counties currently implementing CARE Court. During these visits, CalHHS has worked to problem solve, share best practices, and identify ways to refine and continually improve the process for all participants and all counties (which must implement no later than December 2024).

  • WHY STARTING CARE COURT NOW IS IMPORTANT: Spearheaded by Governor Newsom and the Legislature in 2022, the CARE Act is an innovative new pathway to ensure people with untreated schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic disorders actually get the help they need in the community. In addition to being a tool to engage the individual, this civil court process also includes accountability measures to ensure local behavioral health systems don’t let people fall through the cracks. Seven counties initially implemented the CARE Act in October 2023 and Los Angeles county implemented it in December 2023. Over 450 petitions have already been submitted in just those eight counties in about the first six months. Even more people have been helped due to CARE Act outreach teams who do not need to enter the full CARE Act process but begin receiving help as a result. Additional counties are able to join at any time. San Mateo implementing earlier than required indicates county leadership is serious about tackling the mental health and homelessness crises.

In addition to providing resources and guidance on implementing the CARE Act, DHCS is issuing a new FAQ and optional standardized forms related to the modernization of conservatorship (SB 43), to add on to the county guidance released last month. Two counties have already begun implementing, and these new resources are designed to make it clear that counties do not need to wait until the January 1, 2026 deadline to begin implementing this reform to help gravely disabled people in their communities – one of the many new tools available to them so Californians can begin to see the results in their communities that they deserve.

Rendering of What The Redwood City Location Will Look Like Once Completed

BIGGER PICTURE: Transforming the Mental Health Services Act into the Behavioral Health Services Act and building more community behavioral health treatment sites and supportive housing is the central pillar of Governor Newsom’s Mental Health for All – pulling together significant recent reforms like 988 crisis line, CalHOPE, CARE Act, 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), Veterans Health Initiative, Older Adult Behavioral Health Initiative, Behavioral Health Community Infrastructure Program, Behavioral Health Bridge Housing, Behavioral Health CONNECT to address gaps in the community care continuum, expand effective practices, diversify the workforce, and more.

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