Tents along San Pedro Street in Skid Row, Los Angeles, on Tuesday, December 20, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
California is in the midst of a mental health crisis. We see this in the increase in the number of encampments on the streets and the number of people living in community tents.
While the mental health crisis affects almost all of us in some way, it doesn’t affect everyone equally. For example, the veteran community, our most respected neighbors, experience mental health challenges at higher rates than other communities.
More than 10,000 veterans are homeless and living on the streets in California, many suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2022, more veterans committed suicide than in previous years, nearly 100,000 California veterans experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, and more than 300,000 California veterans experienced food insecurity. The California Veterans Service Association recently released its 2023 annual report, making clear the need for dedicated funding to support veterans.
Our veterans deserve better. We need to do more to ensure that those who selflessly serve our country can live a life of dignity. That’s why I’m proud to support Proposition 1 on the March ballot. Proposition 1 would provide $1 billion to specifically serve veterans experiencing homelessness, mental health and substance abuse issues, ensuring more of those who serve our country have access to the treatment and health care they need.
Proposition 1 provides specific assistance to those who volunteer to serve our country, but it also repurposes existing taxpayer funds to help clean up our streets and increase mental health services for all Californians. It also includes important reforms to ensure cities and counties prioritize those most in need and that our public funds are spent wisely.
Editorial Board: Vote No on Proposal 1
In 2004, California passed the Mental Health Services Act, a voter-approved measure that earmarked billions of dollars to treat mental illness. Now, it’s time to change the law to ensure money goes to those who need it most. Proposition 1 includes reforms to the MHSA to provide expanded mental health care to California’s most vulnerable populations, create more than 10,000 new mental health beds across the state, and ensure that at least $1 billion in existing mental health funding is used for housing each year . It also gives counties the ability to build facilities with locked beds to treat the most severe mental illness if they want to invest their share of state funds in those much-needed treatment centers.
While the original MHSA was a step in the right direction, our needs have changed over the past two decades. Our laws should be updated to reflect these new needs and bring California’s mental health services into the 21st century. That’s why I join so many Republican and Democratic colleagues in supporting Proposition 1.
Proposal 1 would also prioritize the training of health care workers needed to treat patients Behavioral health issues. Unfortunately, while the number of people suffering from mental health problems has increased over the past two decades, the number of professionals available to treat these patients has remained stagnant. People with serious mental health issues must wait up to six months or more for an initial assessment, and that doesn’t even begin to outline a treatment plan and path to health. Thankfully, Proposition 1 will fund the training of more mental health professionals so that people who need help can get it in real time.
As a fiscal conservative, I am proud to support the real accountability measures in Proposition 1. It reforms existing laws without raising taxes and establishes rigorous accountability measures—including mandatory audits and oversight—to ensure where and how our taxpayer dollars are spent. should be spent.
This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Nearly 90% of Californians agree that our state is facing a mental health crisis and we need to take steps to address it. Proposition 1 will refocus billions of dollars in existing funding to ensure that Californians with the greatest mental needs, living in encampments, or suffering the most severe substance abuse issues get the help they need, which will help all of our Community. Join me in voting YES on Proposition 1 on March 5, 2024.
Shannon Grove represents California’s 12th State Senate District.