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Tax-Funded Mental Health Programs Not Always Easy To Find

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Back in 2008, Mary Hogden was homeless, residing on the streets of Berkeley, Calif.

“I got beat up really badly out there,” says Hogden, 62. “It’s not a safe place for women.”

She landed within the hospital after which in a boarding dwelling for adults with psychological sickness. But her huge break got here when she began volunteering for a psychological well being program referred to as the Pool of Consumer Champions, run by Alameda County.

Participants, who provide one another assist, additionally advise the county’s behavioral well being division on higher meet customers’ wants. The county has adopted a few of the group’s suggestions, Hogden says.

“People rallied around me when I was unstable and struggling with my mental health,” Hogden remembers.

She didn’t know on the time that this system was paid for by the state’s Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). But after two years as a volunteer, she grew to become a paid staffer and realized that this system wouldn’t exist with out that funding.

“I wouldn’t be where I’m at in my wellness and recovery had it not been for the Mental Health Services Act,” Hogden says.

In 2004, Californians accepted the act, initially referred to as Proposition 63, which imposes a 1 p.c tax on private earnings over $1 million to assist counties broaden psychological well being care companies.

The tax has raised billions, and Gov. Jerry Brown expects it would usher in roughly $1.8 billion within the coming fiscal 12 months.

“Counties were able to take Mental Health Services Act dollars and either revamp existing programs or completely create new programs that didn’t exist at all,” says James Wagner, deputy director of Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services.

The act has been “wildly successful” at enhancing the power of counties to reply to the psychological well being wants of their residents, he says.

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But counties and the state have confronted criticism from the Little Hoover Commission, an unbiased state oversight company, and others for his or her implementation of the regulation. In February, a state audit accused counties of hoarding the psychological well being cash — and the state of failing to make sure the cash was being spent.

Still, there’s no query “these programs have helped hundreds of thousands of people,” says Heidi Strunk, president of the California Coalition for Mental Health.

A 2016 compilation of MHSA-funded programs throughout the state lists web page after web page of choices that handle homelessness, suicide, caregivers, veterans, kids and dozens of different subjects and populations, together with scholarships for school college students pursuing levels in psychological well being.

But what’s obtainable — and to whom — depends upon your county. For occasion, most applications are for low-income residents, however that’s not true throughout the board. Unfortunately for customers, researching county applications and figuring out whether or not you or your family members qualify will not be simple.

“It’s so hard for individuals and families to know what kind of services are available, especially because there’s no statewide standard,” says Jessica Cruz, CEO of NAMI California, an advocacy group for people, and their households, who’ve been affected by severe psychological sickness.

“Access is an issue,” Cruz says. “There’s not one singular place to look and see what’s available.”

Strunk’s coalition is advocating for a statewide, interactive map that may can help you click on in your county and see its Mental Health Services Act applications. NAMI California, which compiled the 2016 list of programs statewide, is engaged on an replace, however that received’t be out till this summer time, Cruz says. (Check NAMI California’s web site at namica.org for the replace.)

“We’re still trying to resolve issues with how to get information to the public,” Strunk says.

Until there’s a central data supply, you’ll have to use your analysis expertise, plus somewhat phone work.

To get began, Strunk suggests Googling your county’s title and the time period “MHSA coordinator.” Then name that particular person. You also can discover your county’s MHSA plan on-line.

Some counties have toll-free hotlines that may assist join you with acceptable applications based mostly in your wants. (In Orange County, for instance, it’s 855-625-4657. In Alameda County, dial 800-491-9099. Riverside County residents can name 800-706-7500.)

“Each county webpage looks different,” Strunk warns. “Some counties have super user-friendly landing pages, for some counties it’s buried, and some you can’t find at all.”

MHSA applications primarily serve recipients of Medi-Cal, California’s model of the federal Medicaid program for low-income residents, and uninsured individuals with severe psychological sicknesses. But there are additionally companies for a broader vary of the inhabitants.

About 20 percent of Mental Health Services Act dollars are earmarked for “prevention and early intervention,” and these usually tend to serve a wider cross part of individuals.

Sharon Ishikawa, Orange County’s Mental Health Services Act coordinator, factors to OC ACCEPT as one instance. The program offers counseling, vocational assist and different companies to individuals — and their households — who’re confronting challenges associated to sexual orientation and gender identification.

“It is open to anybody with or without insurance,” says Dawn Smith, a program supervisor who oversees a number of of the county’s MHSA-funded companies. “They might have a really high deductible and don’t have a way to pay that or they might not be able to afford the copay.”

But nearly all of individuals are uninsured, Smith says.

NAMI, which has chapters throughout the state, operates some MHSA-funded applications on behalf of counties, and eligibility just isn’t based mostly on insurance coverage standing, Cruz says.

“For us, anybody’s eligible. Anybody can come to a family-to-family class. Anybody can come to a support group. You don’t have to be referred by the county,” she explains.

NAMI Orange County runs the MHSA-funded Peer Connector program, says Diana Fernandez, one of many peer mentors.

The program is for individuals, no matter earnings, who’ve a member of the family or good friend who’s scuffling with psychological sickness, a studying dysfunction or a behavioral downside. Participants can have a one-hour cellphone name every week for as much as 12 weeks with peer mentors who’ve had private expertise discovering assist for themselves or family members, Fernandez explains.

Fernandez has 5 kids, and two have struggled with dyslexia and a spotlight deficit hyperactivity dysfunction (ADHD).

Last week, Fernandez spoke with a person who advised her he felt suicidal. She stayed on the cellphone and related him with the county’s disaster evaluation staff, then waited till she knew he was on his strategy to the hospital.

That state of affairs was uncommon, she says. More sometimes, Fernandez helps mother and father of youngsters who’re struggling at school, or caregivers who’re emotionally and bodily spent.

“We assure clients that they are normal and typical for what they’re going through,” she says. “That gives them a feeling of hope they may not have had before.”

Use Our Content This story could be republished totally free (details).

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Emily Bazar: ebazar@kff.org”>ebazar@kff.org, @emilybazar

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