California is currently struggling with behavioral health concerns that include homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health in students and youth. Lawmakers, advocates, and other stakeholders are seeking resolutions to many of these problems.
Critics Warn Against Newsom Behavioral Health Overhaul
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a plan that would bring significant changes to California’s behavioral health programs. His proposal, which may go before state voters in March 2024, would transform the Mental Health Services Act and add 10,000 new behavioral health beds, in a $4.68 billion bond under Assembly Bill 531 and Senate Bill 326.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has criticized parts of this proposal, saying that its allowable reserves would not be sufficient during a recession. The agency also argues that the proposal would change how counties allocate funds, but that Newsom’s administration has not said which behavioral health outcomes would be improved.
The analysis also said that counties will be required to spend 35 percent of funds on organization partnerships and 30 percent on housing intervention programs. This rule, analysts say, could make it harder for counties to address their unique concerns.
California Will Audit Addiction Treatment Regulation
The Southern California News Group has been investigating reports of deaths, sexual assaults, drug use, and other issues within the state’s addiction treatment industry, known as the “Rehab Riviera.” The majority of state-licensed or certified addiction treatment facilities are located just in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. These non-medical facilities tend to be unprepared for major medical issues, which could put clients at serious risk.
California Assemblymember Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach) has requested an audit to “determine if DHCS [the Department of Health Care Services] is properly licensing, regulating, and enforcing state laws” regarding addiction recovery residential facilities. Dixon’s office reports that the audit is seeking information on how DHCS licenses and tracks facilities that provide 24-hour, non-medical services for adults struggling with substance abuse.
Two Proposed Bills Target School-Based Mental Health
California lawmakers have proposed two bills that would direct more of the state’s mental health spending to school-based behavioral health centers. If passed, they could also make it easier for schools to obtain designated federal funding. According to a commentary by Debra Schade, member of the board of directors for the California School Boards Association, and Travis Hodges, a junior at Monte Vista High School, mental health needs among California’s youth has increased significantly in recent years.
Senate Bill 551 would give youth advocates more say in how the state spends Proposition 63 funds to address mental health and substance abuse. Under the bill, counties would have to have a person 25 years or younger on their mental health board.
Assembly Bill 483 would make it easier for school districts to obtain federal funding for providing mental health services to low-income children. According to Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, California only receives $29 per eligible student for these services. The bill would require the state to help schools navigate the complex requirements for applying for and receiving these funds.
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