Audit Requested of California’s Mental Health Recovery Services, and Special Tax That Pays for Them

In 2004, California voters initiated and passed a new far-reaching Mental Health Services Act  (called Proposition 63 in Calfornia) to upgrade its obsolete, notoriously underfunded mental health system.  Since it was enacted, MHSA has raised more than $8 billion for mental health services, Valley Public Radio reported Aug, 9, 2012.

The services are paid for by existing mental health funds, plus a “Robin Hood tax.”   People who make more than $1 million per year pay one percent of their income, earmarked for “recovery services” for folks with mental health labels.

Now, a Republican lawmaker is calling for an audit of how the money is being spent, public radio said 

Republican State Assemblyman Dan Logue said he requested an audit of the funds after he heard reports of money spent on activities not clearly connected to mental health.

“If the basics are being sacrificed for programs that have shown no benefit whatsoever, then there needs to be a re-evaluation of where these funds go.”

Democratic State Senator Darrell Steinberg, an author Proposition 63, an income tax on millionaires, replied that tens of thousands of people benefit from the Act, and it has saved lives.

“What may seem odd or frivolous to some, may be the only way, or an effective way, to help people who have not received their share of funding, and have not received care.”  Steinberg said most of Prop 63 money is going towards services for the people with mental problems, and a smaller portion is being spent on prevention.

The Original Intent of Prop. 63 Was Recovery Services

The original supporters of Prop. 63, which became the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), hoped for services designed for prevention and recovery, driven by consumers and families.  They wanted better outcomes, reduced homelessness, and less forced treatment and confinement.

They wanted more and better staff training, peer-run programs, family members teaching family members, and more people with “lived experiences” working on the staffs of mental health agencies.

County Prevention and Early Intervention Plan

County Prevention and Early Intervention Plan

The Department of Mental Health directed all counties to develop plans incorporating five essential concepts:

  • Community collaboration
  • Cultural competence
  • Client/family-driven mental health services for older adults, adults and transition age youth, and a family-driven system of care for children and youth
  • Wellness focus, which includes the concepts of recovery and resilience
  • Integrated service experiences for clients and their families throughout their interactions with the mental health system

But counties are still not sure what “recovery services” means, or what recovery programs look like.  They are paying consultants to tell them, and show them how.  New programs also require input from consumers and families before they are lauched.  That process has been clumsy and uneven because counties run mental health services in California, and they are all different.

California law requires recovery services but does not define them

California law requires recovery services but counties struggle to  define and implement  them

Each County Defines Recovery Services Differently

Recovery services are wildly different from county to county. Some of the projects end up being pretty fluffy and “feel-good,” like  parties or outings.

Here is DJ Jaffe’s propaganda piece on the problem. Jaffee speaks for the Treatment Action Center, founded by E. Fuller Torrey, who says the mental health system’s job is protecting society from violent people with untreated mental illnesses.  TAC favors forced treatment and confinement. Check the comments section on his artical.

A broad coalition of statewide advocacy groups, called Working Well Together (WWT) , is also on the case.  Its primary goal is to “ensure public mental health agencies are prepared to recruit, hire, train, support and retain multicultural clients, family members and parents/caregivers as employees.

They are preparing a state peer certification program now under a state contract.

Paid for by the state Mental Health Services Act, the newly formed collaborative of client, family, parent/caregiver, and mental health training and technical assistance organizations consists of the  California Network of Mental Health ClientsNAMI CaliforniaUnited Advocates for Children and Families and the California Institute of Mental Health.

Together, these organizations utilize their combined expertise, experience, grassroots networks and mental health system connections to affirm wellness and recovery from mental illness. called s also on the case.

What recovery services would you want this tax to pay for?


1 comment to Audit Requested of California’s Mental Health Recovery Services, and Special Tax That Pays for Them

  • Susan C. Whelan

    WRAP, Mary Ellen Copeland’s Wellness Recovery Action Plan has transformed my daughter’s life, and that of her two sons. DD was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 two-and-a-half years ago and, yes, she is on medication, but is reducing it with the help and approval of her psychiatrist. She is returning to college in the fall, and attributes 80% of her recovery to the WRAP program she took last year. She has also taken the WRAP facilitator’s course and is able to work part-time helping others develop their own road maps to better health. Her new-found stability has also changed the lives of my grandsons, aged 13 and 8, who are recovering from the chaos of their previous existence, including twelve moves in eight years.

    Of course, one has to be prepared to do the work involved for WRAP to work. It’s a totally individualized program; there are no shortcuts. But for those who are ready to assume personal responsibility for their lives and their illness, it provides a stellar path to re-claiming a productive life.