Governor Newsom proposes State-of-the-Art Mental Health and Housing Solutions initiative in California

Akhil A Pillai

Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed an initiative to improve mental health treatment, substance abuse services, and homelessness in California. The initiative would be included in the 2024 ballot and would authorize a general obligation bond to build new state-of-the-art residential settings for Californians with mental illness and substance use disorders, which could serve over 10,000 people every year. The new residential settings would provide on-site services to help people heal.

The initiative would also provide more funding specifically for housing for homeless veterans and modernize the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). The MHSA was passed 20 years ago, and Governor Newsom believes that it is time to refresh it so that it can better meet the current challenges that California faces. The proposed changes include creating a permanent source of housing funding of $1 billion a year in local assistance funds to serve people with acute behavioral health issues and allowing MHSA to be used for people with substance use disorders alone. The initiative would also include new accountability and oversight measures for counties to improve performance.

Governor Newsom has already taken several steps to improve mental health and substance abuse services in California. These include investing $2.2 billion in the Behavioral Health Continuum Infrastructure Program, $1.5 billion for Behavioral Health Bridge Housing, and $1.4 billion to expand and diversify the behavioral health workforce. The Governor has also proposed $1.6 billion to implement the California Behavioral Health Community-Based Continuum Demonstration to strengthen services and supports for those at risk of homelessness, incarceration, and foster care placements.

Governor Newsom stated that this initiative is the next step in transforming how California addresses mental health and homelessness. It will provide more resources for people who are struggling with these issues, especially those who are on the streets or in vulnerable conditions. The administration plans to work closely with legislative leaders, local government stakeholders, community-based service organizations, advocates, and people with lived experience to develop the bill language.


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