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Gavin Newsom pushing $4.68 billion mental health reform bond proposal

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(The Center Square) – California Governor Gavin Newsom is teaming up with state lawmakers to propose a $4.68 billion bond and modernization of the Mental Health Services Act for the March 2024 election.

The proposal would give California the necessary resources to, “build 10,000 new beds across community treatment campuses and facilities to help Californians with serious mental illness and substance use disorders get the housing and care they need,” according to a release from the governor’s office.

“We are facing a confluence of crises: mental health, opioids, housing, and homelessness – and this transformative effort will ensure California is tackling these head-on in a comprehensive and inclusive way,” Newsom said. “Over the last few years, California has led the nation in expanding access to affordable and quality mental health services – especially for children, teens and people with untreated mental illness. The historic legislative effort announced today will supercharge these efforts to ensure California continues to lead the way in the decades to come.”

Newsom is partnering with state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton, and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, to push the proposal. Eggman wrote a bill looking to amend the 20-year-old law, while Irwan wrote a bill aiming to get bond money to finance treatment facilities and housing.

Here are the five areas of behavioral health that Newsom and the lawmakers hope to address, according to the release:

Reforming key behavioral health care funding to provide services to the most seriously ill and to treat substance use disordersBuilding a workforce to reflect and connect with California’s diversityFocusing on outcomes, accountability and equityHousing and behavioral health treatment in unlocked, community-based settingsHousing for veterans with behavioral health challenges

“Combined, this legislative package will bring this transformation to all communities, all ages, all incomes, and cover mental health and substance use disorders as well as build out the State’s capacity to provide behavioral health care, housing, and good jobs for Californians – with strengthened accountability for results,” Newsom’s office said.

Newsom expects both bills will pass, and he will sign them later this year. Then, the voters will address the proposal in March 2024.

Eggman said there is an urgent need to invest in mental health.

“We are facing mental health and substance abuse crises on our streets in communities throughout California,” Eggman said. “This legislation will help us transform our behavioral health system and provide critically needed support for the most vulnerable among us, many of whom are struggling with homelessness in addition to mental illness. The time to act is now.”

And Irwin said the proposal will benefit the state’s homeless veterans.

“Getting veterans experiencing homelessness off the streets has long been a priority for California, but getting some of our most vulnerable veterans into needed treatment for behavioral health challenges will be transformative,” Irwin said. “One of the only groups that has seen a recent significant decline in percent of homelessness are veterans, thanks primarily to the very successful Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention program. Building upon the veterans’ program, AB 531 and SB 326 will provide housing and treatment services to veterans that focus on serious mental illness and substance use disorders. Funding and expanding this program is the right thing to do, and I look forward to working with the Governor and veterans organizations to put these important advances before the voters.”

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