Message from the Executive Director

Working to Better Understand Proposed Changes to MHSA Funding

Amie Miller, PsyD., Executive Director Earlier this year, Gov. Newsom proposed a ballot initiative that would substantially shift the way counties use Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funding, including reallocating a major portion of it to assist individuals who are unhoused and have serious mental health conditions or drug addiction. In this landscape of unpredictability – where your departments are uncertain about funding streams and requirements for services – CalMHSA is taking steps to gain greater insight into what counties may need to meet this moment. The governor is asking the Legislature to place the proposal on the statewide ballot in 2024, tied to a bond measure that would add psychiatric treatment beds, so last month the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) produced a report on the proposal – a nonpartisan analysis of the mechanics of the funding shifts and their impact. The LAO recommended rejecting the proposal to reduce allowable county reserves. It also found that the proposal in general will “likely result in counties spending less on a number of current programs funded through MHSA, potentially reducing outpatient services, crisis response, prevention services, and outreach.” To get a clearer picture of the investment needed to fund the public mental health system, as well as the needs of the safety net population your departments are serving, CalMHSA has commissioned the RAND Corporation to conduct an in-depth analysis. We expect to have a report of that analysis in the fall. CalMHSA has also selected a vendor to collaborate with us in designing a community mental health impact campaign. One of the campaign’s key goals will be to highlight all that county behavioral health already does to assist individuals who are unhoused. Importantly, a study we recently commissioned estimates that changes to MHSA funding could increase suicide mortality by as much as 30%, as many as 2,500 deaths, over a 10-year period. I urge you to review it and consider whether it can help you to make a case for the difference you are making in your communities, and how that could change drastically depending on how these policy issues unfold in the coming year. In the meantime, stay tuned for more on the upcoming RAND report and on our efforts to lift the veil from Californians’ understanding of the many ways that public mental health reaches into their communities, including by saving lives.

August 28, 2023