Legislative Republicans prioritize mental health crisis with $10 billion investment  proposal

With a record-setting budget surplus, Legislative Republicans are calling for a $10 billion investment to prioritize the mental health crisis within California’s homeless population. With major gaps in mental health care persisting for decades, the Mental Health Infrastructure Fund introduced by Republicans would provide access to care for individuals who are unable to care for themselves due to untreated illness or addiction.

“We’ve ignored the mental health and substance abuse treatment needs of far too many Californians for far too long, mostly because we have failed to invest in the facilities and workforce necessary to provide the needed help,” said Senator Patricia Bates. “We have an unprecedented budget surplus at the same time we have an unprecedented need for mental health and substance abuse care. The budget surplus will go away, but the mental health and substance abuse treatment needs will not. We can be both smart and compassionate with this surplus. There is no real path to solving California’s homelessness crisis that does not involve expanding treatment capacity. If we do not do this now, we’ll never do it, and too many Californians will continue to needlessly suffer.”

The Republicans’ infrastructure fund is a two-step strategy that would extend the state’s temporary funding program to purchase, construct, or rehabilitate properties into new, long overdue county mental health and addiction treatment facilities and create new centers for behavioral-health-focused education in order to expand the treatment workforce.

Senator Brian Jones said, “Up until recently, Democrats in the legislature were following Governor (Gavin) Newsom’s ‘my way, or the highway’ attitude about the homelessness issue. And their approach led to just that – more homeless encampments popping up on our highways. We need to clear homeless encampments off our streets, out of our parks and off of other public property in a humane and compassionate way. Our proposed Mental Health Infrastructure Fund is an excellent first step in helping solve homelessness in California. We must invest part of the budget surplus towards common-sense solutions that create a better California by helping care for persons who are unable to care for themselves.”

Excerpts from the letter outlining the priority of the funding

“… The funding would be available over the next four fiscal years in order to close the 7,730 bed deficit within that timeframe. Any moneys not used within the four-year timeframe could be diverted for bed capacity expansion at the Department of State Hospitals. By agreeing to accept the funding, counties would be required to have the facilities built, licensed, and staffed within an agreed-upon timeframe. …

“Furthermore, the plan calls for taking advantage of California’s prestigious higher education system by creating new centers which would focus the establishment of a new California State University at Stockton that specializes in behavioral health care-focused degrees.”