Labor leaders support sweeping changes to Mental Health Services Act

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California Construction News staff writer

Labor, including construction leaders across California are speaking up in support of the plan to modernize the state’s behavioral health services system and plan to build 10,000 new behavioral health beds.

“The housing and homelessness crisis has exacerbated the issue of providing the necessary services to those with serious mental health illnesses,” California Conference of Carpenters director Daniel Curtin said in a statement. “Modernizing our approach to mental health treatment requires important medical services but also the necessary housing to provide a stable environment for those in need.

“The acute need for safe living conditions of veterans, at-risk youth, and those driven to homelessness and despair due to social or economic trauma, as well as on-site or near-by medical and mental health services, are essential to successfully treat the associated and complex mental health issues they are suffering.”

In August, the Assembly Health Committee voted to pass Gov. Newsom’s legislation modernizing the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), Senate Bill 326 authored by Sen. Susan Eggman (D-Stockton).

“Californians know the urgency needed to address the crises our state and our country are facing, from opioids to mental health to homelessness. The status quo is simply unacceptable,” said Governor Newsom. “This reform will ensure our state has a true mental health care system that has real accountability so people can get help.”

This marks the first vote on SB 326, one of the bills in Governor Newsom’s two-bill legislative package to transform California’s mental health and substance use disorder services system to ensure the needs of Californians are met for years to come.

“California’s behavioral health crisis is a complex and multifaceted problem,” said Matt Lege, SEIU California. “This proposal is an important step to modernizing the system. The whole person approach, robust planning process, accountability, providers and investment in the workforce, are critical to delivering on the care that every Californian is entitled to.

“For these reasons outlined, SEIU supports this proposal.”

Newsom wants to build thousands of new community behavioral health beds in residential settings to house Californians with mental illness and substance use disorders, which he says could serve over 10,000 people every year in residential-style settings that have on-site services – not in institutions of the past, but locations where people can truly heal.

Reforms would also include:

  • More funding specifically for housing for homeless veterans.
  • Amending the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), leading to at least $1 billion every year in local assistance for housing and residential services for people experiencing mental illness and substance use disorders, and allowing MHSA funds to serve people with substance use disorders.
  • New accountability and oversight measures for counties to improve performance.

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