Disability Rights California Opposes Proposition 1

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Disability Rights California Opposes Proposition 1

Proposition 1 is the culmination of the Governor’s massive effort over the last two years to remake mental health services in California. The disturbing consequences will be more people subjected to involuntary detention and treatment without any evidence to support this approach. The Governor’s policies are aimed at people who are unhoused, but his solutions provide no housing guarantees.

In 2022, California enacted CARE Court, which creates a court-ordered program for coerced mental health treatment. In 2023, California enacted SB 43, to make it easier to conserve people. Now, California voters are asked to weigh in on Proposition 1, which combines two bills passed in 2023 that cannot take effect without voter approval.

Proposition 1 rewrites The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), passed by voters in 2004 as Proposition 63. Also known as the “millionaire’s tax,” Proposition 63 has generated billions of dollars for community mental health services. Proposition 1 renames the MHSA as the Behavioral Health Services Act (BHSA) and among its major changes (1) permits funds to be used to treat primary substance use disorder (SUD), and (2) requires 30% of funding to be spent on housing interventions with an emphasis on the chronically homeless. Although housing is a permitted use of funds today, there is no minimum requirement. It will be impossible to ADD people with SUD and ADD a 30% requirement for housing without REDUCING OTHER SERVICES.

The second part of Proposition 1 authorizes the state to issue $6.38 billion in bond funding for “behavioral health treatment and residential setting” projects. We are still uncertain about what types of projects will be funded but we know locked, involuntary treatment beds are contemplated.

Among the many reasons DRC opposes Proposition 1 is the way it came to be. Instead of asking stakeholders to join him in working towards a solution of our mental health policy challenges, Governor Newsom took an entirely different approach. Proposition 1, like CARE Court the year before, was released without meaningful engagement of the people most affected – those with mental health disabilities. When people commit to a solution, they become invested in its success. What we see with Proposition 1 is an alarming expenditure of taxpayer dollars combined with an overhaul of a successful community treatment program, leading to reductions in services.

So much money has been thrown at solving homelessness but without meaningful, lasting results.
We can and should do better than Proposition 1.