State Issues

Prop 2 promises ‘No place like home,’ but it’s not what it says it is

Many who are homeless suffer from mental illness. In Sacramento, Sheriff’s deputies let campers know they must pack up and move away from a downtown location. Many worry that using money guaranteed to treatment of mental illness through Proposition 63 will dilute resources for treatment. They urge people to vote no on Proposition 2.
Many who are homeless suffer from mental illness. In Sacramento, Sheriff’s deputies let campers know they must pack up and move away from a downtown location. Many worry that using money guaranteed to treatment of mental illness through Proposition 63 will dilute resources for treatment. They urge people to vote no on Proposition 2. rpench@sacbee.com

Homelessness is a huge societal problem and must be addressed. But not by taking funds for treatment and services away from the seriously mentally ill.

Advocates for the seriously mentally ill know housing, without supportive services, is not successful for those with serious disorders such as schizophrenia.

Money from Proposition 63 established the Mental Health Services Act mandating services for the seriously mentally ill. Without these services, more of our mentally ill will become homeless, incarcerated or hospitalized.

Analysis by the Legislative Analyst Office says the state would borrow money from Proposition 63, which would be repaid with interest through the Mental Health Services Act. “This means less funding would be available for other county mental health services,” says the report.

Prop. 2 will take $140 million dollars annually from MHSA to fund NPLH. Counties can give competitive and non-competitive bids for housing projects, but the state will choose which bids are accepted. Whether a county’s bid is accepted or not, funds will be taken from MHSA funds to repay the loan.

For Stanislaus County this amounts to $1.79 million annually. Additionally, we do not need the state to run a No Place Like Home program. The welfare and institutions code states: “The California Housing Finance Agency ... shall release unencumbered Mental Health Services Fund moneys dedicated to the Mental Health Services Act housing program upon the written request of the respective county. The county shall use these Mental Health Services Fund moneys ... to provide housing assistance to the target populations ... (i.e., seriously mentally ill).”

By “housing assistance,” this section means rental assistance or operating subsidies; money for security and utility deposits, or other move-in cost assistance; utility payments, and the cost of moving. It also covers capital funding to build or rehabilitate housing for homeless, mentally ill persons or mentally ill persons at risk of becoming homeless.

A San Francisco Chronicle article supporting Prop. 2 states: “MHSA raises roughly $2 billion a year. But in some years, counties have had trouble spending all of that money.” The story adds, Prop. 2 “would allow unspent MHSA funds to pay off the bonds” from the No Place Like Home program.

We don’t need the state to allow us to use unspent MHSA funds for housing our the seriously mentally ill. Stanislaus County Behavioral Health estimates $19.5 million unspent MHSA funds for 2018-19. Our county will have no “trouble spending all of that money” for services and supportive housing for our mentally ill.

The Behavioral Health Department better understands the needs for services and housing of the most vulnerable. Don’t allow the state to take from us the ability to use MHSA funds needed in our county!

Prop. 2 is an unnecessary giveaway to investors and bureaucrats who will ultimately reduce access and quality of treatment for our severely mentally ill. Money allocated by law to improve access and quality of treatment for severely mentally ill children and adults will instead be dumped into a state “pot” to solve the societal problem of homelessness.

In addition to No Place Like Home taking treatment dollars to pay the bonds and interest, it will also be used for fees to financial institutions for marketing, selling, delivering and then redeeming the bonds.

Prop. 2 is backed by politicians, developers and wealthy interest groups who have raised more than $3.6 million to ensure its passage. As advocates who deal with the issues of services and housing for our loved ones with severe mental illness, we have only our experience and our voices to argue against Prop. 2. Vote NO on Proposition 2.

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