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Newsom’s Historic Transformation of California’s Behavioral Health Care System


SACRAMENTO – Behavioral health and housing organizations, veterans groups, first responders, health care professionals, and local elected officials are expressing early and enthusiastic support for Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed major transformation and modernization of the state’s behavioral health services system, which would bring about housing with accountability and reform with results.

Recently, Governor Newsom and state legislative leaders Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin and Senator Sussan Talamantes Eggman unveiled the legislative package transforming the Mental Health Services Act and a $4.68 billion bond to help build 10,000 new community behavioral health beds across the state.

Here is what they are saying…

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH & HOUSING ORGANIZATIONS

  • NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz: “As we approach the 20th anniversary of the MHSA, the act is in need of updating to reflect the world we live in today. We must focus on those in the highest need to ensure they have robust care when and where they need it. We applaud the Governor for continuing to move Mental Health forward as a priority, we look forward to refining the legislation together. Always remembering the intent of the original MHSA that it be led by individuals and their families.”

  • All Home Founder and CEO Tomiquia Moss: “Housing and health are inextricably linked, and our systems need to reflect that fact. The behavioral health reforms put forward by the Governor and legislators will help prioritize housing and health care for Californians who need them most—particularly our unsheltered neighbors. For anyone to stabilize or recover from mental illness or substance use, or the trauma of homelessness, they need supportive housing. When we meet people in distress with homes, care, dignity, and respect, everyone in our state will be safer and better off.”

  • HealthRIGHT 360 President & CEO Dr. Vitka Eisen: “Modernizing the Mental Health Services Act is a pivotal step toward improving access to evidence-based services for people with substance use disorders, meeting the growing demand for treatment, and ensuring California is fully equipped to compassionately and comprehensively address the overdose crisis.”

  • Phoenix Houses of California President and CEO Alice Gleghorn, PhD.: “Every day we are fighting to keep our communities alive through treatment, and this transformative change will help save lives and bring services to those who are suffering from a Substance Use Disorder.”

  • CA Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives (CAADPE) & President and CEO, Tarzana Treatment Centers Albert Sellena:

  • Doug Bond, President and CEO of the Amity Foundation: “The Behavioral Health Services Act is the kind of landmark investment California needs to stop the revolving door between incarceration and homelessness. It also marks a groundbreaking shift in our approach to substance use disorder; finally treating people struggling with addiction as worthy of care and capable of healing through quality services and housing.”

VETERANS GROUPS

  • California Association of Veterans Services Agencies’ Chuck Helget: “CAVSA thanks the Governor and Assembly Member Irwin for including veterans in this transformative legislation! California has the largest number of homeless veterans in the country with more than 11,000 veterans unhoused and many suffering from behavioral health conditions. The Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Program (VHHP) has been a success in reducing veteran homelessness but this program must be refunded to continue that success. This reform will ensure that we can build on the success of the VHHP and also provide the critical behavioral health services needed to support California’s veterans and their families!”

  • Swords to Plowshares Executive Director Michael Blecker: “These reforms have the potential to permanently fund one-time initiatives such as the Veteran Support for Self-Reliance pilot and the California Veterans Health Initiative that address the urgent needs of California’s most vulnerable veterans who urgently need state supports to maintain their housing with community-based behavioral health supports so that they can live with dignity after years of chronic homelessness and unmet health issues. Veterans, people of color and seniors have long been underserved by our mental health systems of care in California. We look forward to working with our State leaders to ensure that veterans get their fair share of mental health dollars to support the housing investments we have already made with enhanced community-based mental health staffing.”

  • Nation’s Finest CEO Chris Johnson: “As an agency focused on housing and critical behavioral health services, this bond measure is vitally important to our continued care of those who have earned it, our veterans.”

FIRST RESPONDERS & HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS

  • California Professional Firefighters President Brian K. Rice: “Every day, our firefighters and paramedics see the impact of severe mental illness and substance use disorder in our homeless population. We have to do more than just take people through a revolving door in the emergency room. By focusing on housing and treating those most in need, the governor’s Behavioral Health Modernization package can transform our approach to homelessness, mental illness and substance use disorder. I commend the Governor, Senator Eggman and Assemblymember Irwin for their leadership.”

  • California Medical Association President Donaldo Hernandez, M.D.: “The nation’s long-neglected mental health system and the resultant crisis in whole person care is being felt throughout our entire society and certainly on our streets, with approximately one third of unhoused people suffering from mental and behavior health challenges. California’s physicians fundamentally believe that addressing the needs of these individuals — and the behavioral health challenges facing families and communities — demands a comprehensive, holistic approach. This is not only a moral imperative for our state, but also an important health issue that impacts the well-being of California as a whole. The chronically homeless are often patients with multiple untreated chronic diseases, contributing to a public health crisis that cannot be adequately addressed by emergency care alone. CMA and its nearly 50,000 physician members stand by our values and are ready to help ensure that ALL Californians have the ability to access the health care they need to help them remain safe, whole, independent and stable.”

  • California Hospital Association President and CEO Carmela Coyle: “Every day, hospitals across California see firsthand the devastation wrought by untreated serious mental illness, addiction, and drug overdoses. While our state has made important investments and reforms, it’s time we redouble our efforts to stop the suffering in our communities. The California Hospital Association and its more than 400 hospitals and health systems support the Governor’s behavioral health reform proposals to help people who are suffering the most, while also investing upstream to help people as early as possible.”

BUSINESS & LABOR

  • SEIU Local 721 President David Green: “SEIU members support the Administration’s proposed expansion of critical mental health services. There is no such thing as health without mental health, and access to mental health services has been a gaping hole in our healthcare system. This proposal moves us in the right direction. The inclusion of substance abuse disorder treatment is of particular importance, and the investments in our workforce are also essential.”

  • Jim Wunderman, Bay Area Council: “For too long California has failed to adequately address the dire mental health and substance abuse crisis playing out on our streets, in our parks and other public spaces. We applaud Governor Newsom’s bold plan to get people the help, shelter and housing they desperately need, and provide the accountability to ensure we do it right.”

LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS

  • San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Chair of Big City Mayors: “California’s mental health system is long overdue for an overhaul. I thank @CAGovernor, @SenSusanEggman and @ASM_Irwin for unveiling this proposal to create thousands of new mental health beds and enhance access to treatment.”

  • Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass: “The crisis we are experiencing cannot be solved without a deep commitment to addressing the mental health and substance use needs of homeless individuals. These bold reforms will do that by building new housing, unlocking resources, and in a long overdue move, making sure that substance abuse is treated with the seriousness it deserves. This issue is impacting Angelenos throughout our City as well as Californians throughout our state. I thank the Governor for his leadership and look forward to working with the Legislature to place these proposals on the ballot.”

  • Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer: “Housing alone will not solve our homelessness crisis, without addressing two of its major drivers – mental health and substance abuse. Governor Newsom’s proposed legislative reforms will help people who need it most by modernizing our state’s behavioral health system, adding thousands of beds to community treatment facilities, and aiding our most vulnerable populations – both here in Fresno and across the state. I applaud Governor Newsom’s courageous efforts.” 

  • San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan: “Everyday in our communities we witness the failures of the state’s mental health system. I support the Governor’s efforts to reform and modernize how we care for our neighbors suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. It is common sense to provide treatment and housing rather than cycling people through our jails, emergency rooms, and streets.”

  • Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson: “I am proud to support the Governor’s plan to modernize the Mental Health Services Act and transform the way we deliver behavioral health services in California. These critical reforms will help address the biggest challenges our cities are facing today by expanding the number of mental health residential beds and services available, allowing us to place thousands of our most vulnerable residents on a path towards stability by connecting them with the care they need.”

  • Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson: “As a former appointee to the Board of Behavioral Sciences by Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Brown, I am deeply familiar with our state’s mental health crisis and am a passionate advocate for these efforts in Riverside. Inland Southern California is the fastest growing region in the state, and suffers from a serious lack of funding to adequately address the growing mental health crisis. This new proposal will mean more individuals in our region and throughout the state will receive the treatment and services needed to become housing secure and stabilized. I fully support the reimagining of the Mental Health Services Act by Governor Newsom, Senator Susan Eggman and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin– the need for mental health reform is long overdue.”

  • San Bernardino Mayor Helen Tran: “The Governor’s comprehensive proposal to address the mental health and addiction component of homelessness helps fill one of the missing pieces of the homeless solution puzzle. By recognizing the importance of housing, the Behavioral Health Services Act not only updates how we treat substance and mental health disorders, but the companion bond provides a critically needed funding source as well.”

  • Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren: “The homeless population in our community is in critical need of immediate access to behavioral health services and supportive housing. While recognizing the need for individualized approaches, it is vital that we employ more impactful strategies to effectively address the multifaceted challenges related to mental health and homelessness. The proposed legislative package will provide an effective response to the rising demands within our communities.”

  • Moreno Valley Mayor Ulises Cabrera: “Every day we witness homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health crises impacting the most vulnerable residents in our communities. It is time we take bold action to construct thousands of new supportive housing units and expand critical access to behavioral health treatment. I commend the Newsom administration for the creation of CARE Court and for building on that transformative framework with this historic legislative package. Modernizing our behavioral health system is long overdue and this proposal will ensure we have the tools to address these challenges through an equitable and humane approach.” 

  • Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan: “We have a job to do when it comes to helping people on our streets transition into supportive housing. Housing with accountability, and reforms with result is needed now. This is a critical next step to address mental illness, substance use disorders and homelessness. We all know hospitals are not the solution. I support Governor Newsom’s modernization and transformation of California’s Mental Health Services Act. With these funds, Orange County will be able to provide support for the most vulnerable and tackle the pressing issue of homelessness.”

  • Monterey Mayor Tyller Williamson: “Governor Newsom and Legislative leaders’ proposed legislative package and bond measure will help address the mental health and substance abuse crisis that affects communities across the Golden State, including Monterey. The legislative package will bring outcomes-based mental health reform in California through behavioral health treatment, residential care, housing, and support for our Veterans.”

  • San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman: “Governor Newsom’s proposals would infuse long overdue capital and operating dollars into California’s inadequate continuum of behavioral health care. These investments begin to make good on the decades-deferred promise of community mental health care for the State’s most vulnerable residents.”

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