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July 2004
MENTAL HEALTH INITIATIVE ON NOVEMBER BALLOT
By Joyce Parker, Ph.D.

A mental health initiative has finally been voted to be placed on the ballot for November 2004. 36 years ago California emptied its mental hospitals. Ronald Reagan, who was Governor of California at that time, promised to provide funding for community mental health to allow mentally ill people who had been hospitalized in those facilities to be cared in their communities. However, that promise was never fulfilled. Instead there are over 50,000 people who are homeless in California and it is estimated that up to 30% of them are seriously mentally ill. These individual are not being treated for their conditions. About 20% of our prison population is mentally ill. This is because when mentally ill people have a crisis, there are no facilities other than prisons to house them. In 1955 the national average for State Mental Hospital beds was 339 beds per 100,000 people. In the year 2000, the number of State Mental Hospital beds had dropped to 22 per 100,000 people nationwide. In California, the figures are even worse. As of May 2004, there were fewer than 2 beds per 100,000 people. 50 years ago mentally ill people would have been off the streets and cared for in hospitals. Our society now criminalizes the mentally ill and incarcerates them in prisons and county jails. As the state reduces spending for treatment and hospital care for the severely mentally ill, there is a corresponding increase in the number of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system.

The Mental Health Services Act proposes to expand mental health care programs for children and adults. There will be care for people disabled by mental illness. There will be preventative care and support for families and caregivers affected by the ravages of mental illness. Services to be provided will include outreach, medical/psychiatric care, short and long-term housing, prescription drugs, vocational training ;and support services. Funding for these services will come from a tax surcharge of 1% on that portion of yearly income over $1 million. This would generate about $6 million per year. Assembly member Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) a long time advocate of mental health services stated, "This is the first big step for the state of California to fulfill a promise made 36 years ago... Thirty-six years is long enough to wait."

Please Support this Initiative.

(Statistics and quotes for this article from “Mental Health Initiative on the November Ballot”, by Robin Cooper, M.D. CPA Representative to the California Coalition for Mental Health, in California Psychiatrist, The Newsletter of the California Psychiatric Association Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer 2004)

The author of this article, and founder of the Therapyinla.com website, Joyce Parker, passed away in 2011. To honor her we are keeping her articles posted at this website.


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