Budget and MHSA Housing Bond Pass – 17 Ballot Initiatives Qualify for November

  • Legislature Passes MHSA Housing Bond and Adjourns for Summer Recess
  • Governor signs budget
  • 17 measures qualify for November ballot

July 1st came on a Friday which meant the legislature started its summer recess on the earliest possible day (returning on August 1st also the earliest possible day).

One of their last actions before adjourning was to pass the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) housing bond.  It required a 2/3 vote, and to secure passage Republicans insisted on a few amendments to require more publishing of county spending reports, someone with an auditing background on the MHSOAC (Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission) and $10 million for transitional housing (which likely was in direct response to letters from CCCBHA members).

Darrell Steinberg told me that this action will save Proposition 63. He noted that his conversations with legislators all used to be about what have you done with this enormous amount of money (that they generally would rather spend for other purposes).  Now he believes that they are invested in the success of the act and recognize that its funds will be needed to provide the increased services needed for those that the bond measure will house.

At the same time one cannot help but notice the dramatic increase in attention to homelessness among local governments and the press.  New stories in Orange County, Santa Clara, LA and San Francisco highlighted new funding proposals (mostly bond and tax measures for the November ballot from cities and counties). Together these would raise more money for housing of homeless people that the MHSA $2 Billion bond proposal. Also some of this money would be for the types of housing (transitional housing and housing specifically for people with mental illness or substance use disorders) that the MHSA housing bond does not promote (but its guidelines potentially could allow to some extent).

Also promising is that San Diego County reported a proposed $60 million increase in mental health funding for 16-17 – representing more than a 10% increase.  If this is indicative of other counties there could be more than $500 million in new spending- certainly justified based upon the report at our meeting in June by Mike Geiss (add link to presentation) showing county revenues rising by more than $1 Billion from 15-16 to 16-17. Moreover, the work of our summer interns to document county revenues and expenses (due to be presented in a few weeks) has found that counties have very substantial reserves- enough to sustain this growth even in a period of a modest recession.

When combined with the housing bonds (and the planning to address homeless which is required by the MHSA housing bond) it is possible to envision that the MHSA will finally be implemented the way we thought when we wrote it.

At that time we thought that counties and providers would do homeless outreach (including people being discharged from hospitals and jails)and enroll about 15,000 additional people in full service partnerships each year.  At the end of four years that would mean 60,000 additional people receiving that level of service.  At the time of writing the act that was what we thought was the unmet need and current homeless counts suggest it is still about right.  Obviously new people become homeless each year so there will still be a need for additional growth but conceivably this would serve the needs of everyone who is currently homeless due to a neglected severe mental illness (including many with co-occurring substance use disorders).  It would also mean having the capacity to serve everyone who is coming out of jails and hospitals.

It seems too good to be true and probably is but the combination of housing interest together with  growth in funds means that every county should be planning to do so and should be able to make significant progress.

Governor Brown signs budget- without any line item vetoes – first time since 1982 (when he was also governor)

In a sign of good economic times and good working relationships between the governor and legislative leaders the budget was signed this week without a single item being reduced by the practice known as “line item veto. This is the authority the governor has to reduce appropriations budget items as part of his signature of the budget.  The last time this happened was more than 30 years ago and the governor at that time was also Jerry Brown.  During the 1980s community mental health was one of the largest single budget line items (at about $800 million) and was frequently cut through line item vetoes by Governor George Deukmejian (governor from 1983 to 1990).  That was a big factor in the 1991 realignment legislation which took county mental health almost completely out of the state budget by dedicating a specific amount of sales and vehicle license fee revenues to mental health.

Now the state budget line items impacting county behavioral health is quite limited (the details of the budget were covered in the blog from June ).

17 measures qualify for November Ballot
The most since 2000 when there were 20

Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that 17 measures had qualified for the November ballot.  There are almost always more measures in presidential election years because the number of signatures required to be collected is based upon the number of voters in the previous election.  Non presidential election years (when we elect the governor and other statewide office holders) always produce lower (and more conservative) voter turnout.

During our next public policy call on July 15th we will discuss two of the more controversial measures- legalization of marijuana and a drug pricing measure.  We are likely to support several others including those to extend or expand revenues (income taxes for schools and health care, a tobacco tax for health care, and a hospital fee).

We are also likely to support a proposal from the governor to allow for earlier release of non violent prisoners since that like includes many there due to neglected treatment for behavioral health conditions.

The legislature could add additional measures when it returns on August 1st.



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