BILL to Rebuild Community Mental Health Makes Appropriations Cut

Tom Boland (
Tue, 15 Jun 1999 10:58:17 -0700 (PDT)
FWD  Friday May 28, 1999
     Press Release
     Mental Health Association in California


SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 28 /PRNewswire/ -- One of the Legislature's most
high profile public health measures passed a major hurdle today as it was
removed from the Assembly Appropriations Committee Suspense File, paving the
way for hearing before the full Assembly.

AB 34 (Steinberg, D-Sacramento and Baugh, R-Huntington Beach), sponsored
by the Mental Health Association in California, would end the criminalization
of the homeless mentally ill by providing the initial funding necessary for
the expansion of comprehensive outreach and mental health programs at the
community level. These programs have proven to be effective in stabilizing
homeless individuals with mental illness and getting them into the regular
treatment that keeps them off the streets and out of jail and prison.

``This is a revolutionary first step to ending the vicious cycle of
homelessness and incarceration due to undertreated mental illness,'' said
Rusty Selix, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in
California. ``By expanding comprehensive outreach and mental health care at the
local level we can begin to provide humane treatment that will get people off
the streets, keep them out of jail and help them re-enter society as
productive citizens.''

AB 34 was amended in Appropriations to include $12 million for first year
planning and implementation grants to expand local outreach and mental health
services. This initial funding is also pending in the Budget Conference

The programs funded by AB 34 will ultimately save the state hundreds of
millions of dollars in corrections costs by preventing the homeless mentally
ill from committing crimes. The state is currently spending an estimated
$1.2 to $1.8 billion on criminal justice law enforcement dealing with people
with mental illness. An investment in mental health care, as proposed by
AB 34, would eliminate most of these costs.

As a result of the existing lack of funds for community-based programs,
more than 50,000 mentally ill live on the streets today. Even though less than
5% of the population suffers from a severe mental illness, 10 to 20% of
incarcerated prisoners and an estimated 20 to 40% of the homeless population
have a mental illness.

``The impacts of AB 34 will create a very positive domino effect,'' Selix
said. ``Those with mental illnesses will receive appropriate treatment,
improving their quality of life. The burden on the corrections system will be
eased, and locally, communities will see increased economic growth as the
homeless population is reduced and people re-enter society.''

AB 34 has received widespread bi-partisan support from lawmakers and the
mental health community, as well as business and law enforcement. The Assembly
Appropriations Committee passed AB 34 on a vote of 17-4.

Co-Authors of the bill include:
Joint Author, Assembly Minority Leader
Scott Baugh; Assemblymembers Elaine Alquist, Thomas Calderon, Gil Cedillo,
Martin Gallegos, Robert Hertzberg, Mike Honda, Hannah-Beth Jackson, Fred
Keeley, Sheila James Kuehl, Alan Lowenthal, Kerry Mazzoni, Gloria Romero,
Virginia Strom-Martin, Helen Thomson, and Carl Washington; and Senators Dede
Alpert, Joe Baca, Wes Chesbro, Patrick Johnston, Don Perata, and Hilda Solis.

Mental Health Association in California


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