Monday, August 18, 2008

California's Mental Health Services Act: Who Is Being Served

In the cash-strapped state of California, things aren't quite so golden these days. We like to govern by initiative, meaning all sorts of programs and laws are born without making much sense in the larger reality. So it was with Proposition 63 in 2004, the so-called Mental Health Services Act.

Well-intentioned but fundamentally flawed, the law imposed an additional levy on taxable incomes of $1 million or more. Out here in the land of swimming pools and movie stars, that can add up to a sizable chunk of change. So far, the Act has generated a handsome $3.2 billion for the state's coffers. Problem is, only $726 million has been distributed. What gives? Apparently not those administering the money.

As eloquently pointed out in Prop 63 consultant Rose King's opinion piece last Monday in the Sacramento Bee, the state's Department of Mental Health issued 67 pages of requirements in 2005 for the first applications. Their strategy was to share the wealth with new and innovative programs while telling the old timers to take a hike. Apparently to some bureaucrats up in Sacramento, the death rattles emitted by our suffocating mental health system are little more than passing wheezes. Never mind there are hundreds and thousands unserved and underserved by exisiting services or that the traditional safety nets are full of gaping holes or that we have lost many psychiatric hospitals to financial woes.

Proof once again that if bureaucracy gets involved in healthcare, it's bound to mess it up.
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