On the November California Ballot: An Initiative to Fund Mental Health Services

by Earl Brown on May 1, 2004

Assembly members Darrell Steinberg (Sac.) and Mark Leno joined Mayor Gavin Newsom at the Southern Light Court in City Hall this morning to announce their support for the Mental Health Services Act. Addressing a bustling crowd of mental health service providers, service recipients, and organizers, they called on advocates to aggressively campaign for the initiative’s passage when it goes before voters on the November ballot. Supporters gathered over 643,000 signatures to qualify the initiative and expect the Secretary of State to officially place it on the ballot in the next few days.

The Mental Health Services Act would generate more than $700 million annually in California by levying a tax of 1% on incomes of over $1million per year. Revenue would be dedicated to providing mental health services to people who are disabled by mental illness, people who are showing signs of mental illness in need of prevention services, and to families and caregivers of those affected.

Belinda Lyons, executive director of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco was optimistic about the effects the additional funding would achieve. “Mental health services have been under-funded in California for decades.Reliable, stable funding for mental health services with significant portions for prevention and early intervention will save the city millions in the long run that are currently spent needlessly on hospitals and jails.”

State Assemlymember Darrell Steinberg indicated that if successful the Initiative would bring some resolution to a crisis that began with Reagan-era cuts in the late 1960’s. “36 years ago this state made a conscious decision to shut mental hospitals and made a promise to create space in communities to care for those in need of mental health treatment. It’s time to fulfill those promises of 36 years ago.”

In endorsing the measure, Mayor Newsom appeared eager to tout the Campaign for Mental Health as a cornerstone to resolving San Francisco’s homeless crisis. “At least one in three people living on the streets could return to a self-sufficient, productive life with appropriate mental health care. This initiative builds on proven, successful programs to expand care to tens of thousands of people.”

Filed under: Uncategorized