Newsom: To Fix Homelessness, California Must Fix Mental Health

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom made a daring transfer Wednesday. In his second State of the State handle, an annual speech that normally focuses on political wins or the state’s booming financial system, Newsom devoted 35 of 42 minutes to the pressing however unsexy concern of homelessness.

By proclaiming homelessness essentially the most “pernicious crisis in our midst,” the first-term Democratic governor staked his political fame on his means to resolve it.

That means his fame additionally rides on his means to repair psychological well being care in California.

“Health care and housing can no longer be divorced,” Newsom declared within the ornate, mint-chip-ice-cream-hued state Assembly chambers. In attendance had been the state’s different govt officers, legislators from each homes, and their households and friends.

During the speech, Newsom outlined a number of psychological well being proposals he plans to push this yr.

He touted his bold “once-in-a-generation reform” plan for Medi-Cal, California’s public insurance coverage program for low-income folks. Newsom needs to take a position $695 million to assist the state’s most weak residents, together with homeless folks and people with psychological well being issues, in unconventional methods, corresponding to housing help.

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He additionally raised the controversial concern of involuntary remedy for folks with behavioral well being issues.

While he criticized the historic apply of confining sufferers with psychological sickness to asylums, he mentioned the state must make it simpler for legislation enforcement, well being care suppliers and households to get folks into remedy. ”All inside the bounds of deep respect for civil liberties and private freedoms,” he added.

One of the impassioned elements of Newsom’s speech was his name to reform the Mental Health Services Act, or Proposition 63. Adopted by voters in 2004, the legislation imposes a 1% tax on private earnings over $1 million to assist counties broaden psychological well being care.

Newsom mentioned the issue is that counties aren’t held accountable for the way the cash is spent.

“The money is used in 58 counties in 58 different ways,” mentioned Tom Insel, chair of the board of the Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on psychological well being and homelessness, whom Newsom calls his “mental health czar.”

That’s not going to work for Newsom, who mentioned in his speech that he needs the cash to be spent totally on three populations: kids, homeless folks and previously incarcerated folks.

And, he demanded, the cash must be spent.

Newsom mentioned counties are hoarding $160 million in funding that may very well be used to get folks off the streets and into remedy.

“My message is this: Spend your mental health dollars by June 30th, or we’ll make sure they get spent for you,” Newsom mentioned.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, has made psychological well being and housing reform signature points. He mentioned Newsom’s speech has created “political space” to perform some controversial housing reform that has stalled within the legislature.

“Impactful housing bills are controversial, impactful homelessness bills are controversial, and impactful mental health and addiction bills are controversial,” Wiener mentioned.

It’s not the primary time Newsom has taken accountability for an intractable concern. A month earlier than the State of the State handle, he promised $105 million in new spending to repair the wildfire disaster, saying he would dedicate “emphasis, energy and sense of urgency” to the difficulty.

Now, he’ll even be judged on how he tackles homelessness, an issue that worries 85% of Californians.

“The governor has a very full plate,” mentioned Mike Gatto, a former Democratic state Assembly member from Los Angeles who’s attempting to place a November ballot measure earlier than voters that will enhance involuntary remedy.

“We saw him take ownership of the wildfire issue and now he has boldly taken ownership of this issue, too. The state has to be ready to help him with these tremendous endeavors.”

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

This KHN story first revealed on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Rachel Bluth:”>, @RachelHBluth

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