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Introduction to California Government
California’s Proposition 2 was introduced and passed in 2018 to use the funds from Proposition 63 which would provide counties the resources to build and expand housing for the homeless. Specifically, for those who are already homeless, on the verge of becoming homeless, or chronically mentally ill. With approval, counties also provide for other services such as substance abuse treatment or therapy for those suffering mental illness. The No Place Like Home Act of 2016 was approved to give an amount of $2 billion in bonds to aid the program. The limitation is that Proposition 2 can only use up to 140 million dollars each year (“Proposition 2: Authorizes Bonds” 2018). The remaining funds from Proposition 63 would be taken to pay pack the bond. Voters were asked to vote on it so that the remaining funds could be used for the start of expanding housing for those mentally ill. The League of Women say, “It is estimated that the bonds would be paid off in 30 years at 4.2% interest for approximately $120 million each year”. The lack of information from the counties about how and where they are using the funds is a problem for supporters of this act. Proposition 63 initially was supposed to be used to for services not buildings. It is an issue because there is no way of knowing if their communities need more attention and services. For example, there might be some areas that have a higher veteran, women, or LGBT population than others. Studies have shown that people that are mentally ill and receive shelter have a significant improvement in their life, medically, physically, and mentally (Editorial: Prop 2 Provides Vital Housing” 2018).
The population of homeless has increased nationally. According to the Mental Health Services Oversight, California has over 2.2 million people in need of mental health treatment (“Promises Still to Keep” 2015). Unsheltered homelessness can cause serious mental health issues due to lack of food and water, weather conditions, and no access to treatment. Places such as Skid Row, located in Los Angeles made up of about 50 blocks, are at a concerning rate of deaths due to individuals being homeless. Those that are living in this very popular homeless area, have made a home for themselves there. LA Chamber wrote that about 3% of the entire California homeless population reside in this area. A lot of those who have built a community with other people living in poverty have become comfortable with their lifestyle and are not eager to receive help from shelters. Proposition 2 would finalize the No Place Like Home program which continues to use the $2 billion dollars of bond to provide more housing for those mentally ill that are homeless.
The Mental Health Services Act was passed in 2004, also known as Proposition 63, which provided funds for mental health services by taxing an additional 1% on those who had an income above $1 million (“California Proposition 2”). It was made to be used to develop, expand, and revolutionize mental health care services. People that are unable to attain health insurance are under the responsibility of the county to get the treatment they need. Mental health programs and services are county run and the money that was collected from Proposition 63 was to be used for services of those mentally ill, not for construction of any kind. The goal of this Act was to support these mental health programs to improve prevention of illness, training, recovery, reduce cost of medication and other services.
California had accrued about 17 billion since the Act had passed and there had been no hard evidence to prove that any of this money had been utilized for any programs or services towards mental health. The Department of Mental Health was given about 3-10 years to use this money to good use for its proposed ideas. Since then, they have been audited in regard to their spending habits and usage. According to the Little Hoover Commission, Proposition 63 is responsible for about 25 percent of California’s public mental health spending. Supporters of Proposition 63 promoted that it would decrease costs incarceration, medical care and homeless shelters. The money had been used in unnecessary areas, such as paying for psychiatrists’ school loans due to a shortage of professionals in certain locations (“Promises Still to Keep” 2015). The Department of Mental Health and Mental Health Oversight and Accountability Commission, which is made up of 16 members, were found to not be using their authority correctly. Jessica Cruz, the executive director of the National Alliance on Metal Illness, was supposed to oversee all spending and activities made from the funds of this Act. A hearing took place by the Little Hoover Commission in 2014, and a representative stated that “Administrators could not answer seemingly straightforward questions about the number of individuals served through MHSA programs”. (“Promises Still to Keep” 2015) The Department of Finance conducted an audit on the act and found that the Department of Mental Health did not fulfill its responsibilities and use their authority to good use. The Legislature later gave the Oversight Commission the ability to use the remaining funds for counties that have more controversial programs. The approval process took a very long time, so the need of approval from the state for health plans was removed and was then up to the county supervisors to decide if their plan met the requirements of the act. This updated process still made it hard for the Legislature to know how the funds were being used. The Oversight and Accountability Commission still had difficulty collecting the data from the counties to make sure the money is being used in the right areas. Although, counties were able to decide on their own if it meets the requirements, “counties are still required to send their three-year program and expenditure plans to the oversight commission describing how they will use the funds in accordance of the act (“Promises Still to Keep” 2015). Throughout all the changes and efforts, the Legislature had made, there are still a lack of supervision and monitoring of the finances in relation to Proposition 63, which had led to the introduction of the No Place Like Home Program and Proposition 2.
A DECADE LATER
No Place Like Home program was signed into legislation by Governor Brown in July of 2016. This program was created to provide housing for those in need of mental health services. This program is utilizing funds from the Mental Health Services Act that was passed in 2004 to move forward with the building of permanent affordable housing for the homeless. The League of California Cities says, The No Place Like Home Program was the initial effort from the state to make change and evaluate where the aid will be spent. A 2-billion-dollar bond would be dedicated to the development of the housing and would be repaid by the Mental Health Services Act. Stated in Cal Matters, since the Mental Health Service Act wasn’t approved by voters, a Sacramento lawyer sued highlighting that the money from Proposition 63 was supposed to be used for actual services not construction. This case is still open and has yet reached a decision. The money that was set to be used for the No Place Like Home Program was put aside and put to no use. State lawmakers were impatient to find out the conclusion of the court battle, so they initiated Proposition 2. Proposition 2 would allow the state to use the 2-billion-dollar bond for housing with the voter’s approval. This Proposition was referred to the ballot because it would cause a tax on those who were originally taxed from the Mental Health Services Act. The public is required to vote on changes in ballot initiatives in California. It is a referendum since voter’s had to approve this new proposition to continue using the funds from Proposition 63.
FOR AND AGAINST
Supporters of Proposition 2 said it would alleviate the problem of homelessness that is caused by metal illness. Available housing for people who are mentally ill will push them to occupy the shelters and strive to better themselves. Although the funds will be used for housing, it is still going towards helping those who are mentally ill. Whether it is a service or physical place, the money was going to be used toward these groups of people anyways. Doctors, emergency responders, and social workers support the Proposition because more housing for the homeless means less deaths due to deprivation. Providing housing can prevent isolation and death. Homelessness has increased tremendously about 39% since 2014, according to Los Angeles Times writer, Ana Gorman. According to Reason Foundation, it is estimated that “bond proceeds would fund 20,000 supportive housing, units, which would lower public health costs”. Supporters also argue that this will not affect the state budget because the bonds will be paid back from Proposition 63 funds. There is no additional cost to the taxpayers, all the money for this Proposition will be coming from The Mental Health Services Act, which was originally set aside for those who are mentally ill.
Opponents of this Proposition say the state shouldn’t build more housing, but to use the money to spend on services to help with treatment for homeless and mentally ill. The Federal Housing and Urban Development Department estimate that in California there are about 130,000 people that are homeless. The process of getting a permit for construction sites like these shelters take a long time, so it is not very likely that it will be accomplished. Not only is it time restraining to get the buildings started but the money being funded for housing is taking away from the mental health fund. After interest in put into the mix, the total amount would be about $5.6 billion dollars that is being taken away from treatment and instead used on housing. People who have mental illness and actually want help are more limited to the number of programs that are available to them. A lot of them do not have the resources to go to doctor’s appointments, or counseling services so the last resort is the emergency room as a last resort (“Proposition 2: Arguments and Rebuttals”). Proposition 63 dedicates housing and services for those who are mentally ill, so there is no need to provide more. Contra Costa members are strongly against the Proposition of allowing the continuance of funds to go towards housing rather than services. Rather than benefiting those in need of help, this would benefit developers with new housing projects. Services and treatments are what is needed for the mentally ill so that they can get better mentally and physically. Allowing access to homes cannot alleviate the pain from the mentally ill, but instead than keep them in a sheltered place. Treatments should be the main focus of where the money is being spent.
THE FUTURE OF PROPOSITION 2
Proposition 2 is a fairly new initiative and the process of action is going at a slow pace. While the money from the bond and Proposition 63 is at easy reach, not much has progressed to improve the housing or services for the mentally ill. While the Mental Health Services Act had already created community partnership, support services and others, Proposition 2 has no recent evidence of any other improvements. There seems to be no persistence to get these people who desperately need health services the support they need.
Advocates of Proposition 2 have their visions for improvement thought out, but no extreme action has been taken place. Now that the voters have approved this proposition, it can hopefully motivate this measure to reach a decrease in the homeless population and tragic deaths due to mental illness. There is much hope and ideas set for this Proposition to be successful, but it will be a long process to set up the services and shelters.
- Editorial Staff. “California Ballot Initiative Analysis: Proposition 2.” 2018. Reason Foundation.
- Editorial Staff. “California Proposition 2: Mental Health Money for Housing.” CALmatters 2018 Election Guide.
- Editorial Staff. “California Proposition 2, Use Millionaire’s Tax Revenue for Homelessness Prevention Housing Bonds Measure (2018) – Ballotpedia.” Ballotpedia.
- Editorial Staff. “League of California Cities – No Place Like Home Program Analysis.” 2016. Cacities.org.
- Editorial Staff. “Promises Still to Keep: A Decade of The Mental Services Act.” Little Hoover Report. 2015. File.lacounty.gov.
- Editorial Staff. “Proposition 2 Arguments and Rebuttals | Official Voter Information Guide | California Secretary of State.” Voterguide.sos.ca.gov.
- Editorial Staff. “Proposition 2: Authorizes Bonds to Fund Existing Housing Program for Individuals with Mental Illness.” 2018. LWVC.org.
- Editorial Staff. “Proposition 2.” Legislative Analyst’s Office
- Gorman, Ana, and Harriet Blair Rowan. 2019. “L.A. County’s Homeless Population Is Growing- but Not as Fast as They’re Dying.” Los Angeles Times.
- LA Chamber. Community Redevelopment Agency. 2005. Los Angeles Skid Row.
- Mercury News and East Bay Times Editorial Boards. “Editorial: Prop. 2 Provides Vital Housing Funds for Mentally Ill.” 2018. The Mercury News.
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