Editorial: Vote yes on CA Prop 1

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday February 14, 2024
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Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

There is one statewide measure on the March 5 ballot. Proposition 1 authorizes $6.38 billion in bonds to build mental health treatment facilities for those with mental health and substance use challenges. It also provides housing for the homeless. Governor Gavin Newsom is the main proponent and has been calling for mental health reform for years. Prop 1 was placed on the ballot by the Legislature in bipartisan votes.

According to the legislative analyst, Prop 1 changes the Mental Health Services Act that was passed by voters in 2004, with a focus on how the money from the act can be spent. Funding is generated by a tax on people with high incomes. Right now, at least 95% of the money goes to counties. Prop 1 does not change the tax; it does change the allocation formula and will see about 10% of the money going to the state. Prop 1 also requires that counties spend more of their share of the funding on housing and personalized support services like employment assistance and education, the legislative analyst noted.

The billions in bond money is needed because California does not have enough places where people can get mental health care and drug or alcohol treatment. That is evident in San Francisco and the entire region. The bond funds would be used to build supportive housing and help homeless veterans, among many other needs.

The crisis in the state's mental health system started in the 1960s and 1970s when politicians closed the mental health hospitals, leaving patients in communities with hardly any services. It's long past time to change that, and Prop 1 addresses many of those issues, such as providing treatment over incarceration and expanding community-based resources. Prop 1 also makes better use of existing money.

The proposed law noted that the opioid crisis, mental health issues, and other substance use disorders affect many state residents. It's time to clean up the Mental Health Services Act and deliver real change to people who need help.

Vote yes on Prop 1.

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