Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D – Santa Ana) announced that his Senate Bill 106, which creates a 3-year pilot program for “whatever it takes” care using Mental Health Service Funds, met the approval of a key Senate Committee last week. The measure, sponsored by Orange County, was approved by the Senate Health Committee on a unanimous, bi-partisan vote.
In 2004, voters approved Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), to fund mental health care for Californians. “What many people don’t know is that tens of millions of dollars raised by this measure go unspent annually because the money is stuck in bureaucratic red tape,” noted Senator Umberg. “We have a moral obligation to our most gravely ill Californians – especially amidst a pandemic – to ensure that every dollar of this fund is being delivered expeditiously and effectively.”
SB 106 frees up and incentivizes the use of available “Innovation Funds” within the MHSA for full-service partnerships (FSPs) that provide “whatever it takes” care—the gold standard for mental health treatment. Examples of this care could include: alternative and culturally specific treatments, peer support, supportive services to assist the client and the client’s family, wellness centers, needs assessments, crisis intervention and stabilization services. It could also include non-mental health services and supports like food, clothing, housing, cost of health care treatment, and/or wrap-around services to children. SB 106 stipulates that access to these funds are conditioned upon counties meeting a rigorous set of requirements and oversight.
Reports show that one in six Californians live with mental illness. Two-thirds of that population does not receive needed treatment. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, county mental health services were already stretched beyond capacity. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased rates of anxiety and depression dramatically. Surveys show that twice as many people thought seriously about suicide in 2020 than in the previous year.
Counties are anticipating that demand for services will continue to skyrocket. Senator Umberg stated that, “With more and more Californians suffering from untreated mental illness and dying in despair, it is unconscionable for us to leave money on the table.”
SB 106, a super majority-vote (2/3) bill, heads to the Senate Floor for a vote in the coming weeks.