Proposition 1E would allow the state to redistribute money in order to balance the state budget, but some organizations remain skeptical about its repercussions.
Prop 1E would amend the Mental Health Services Act, also known as Prop 63 of 2004.
It would transfer funds for a two-year period from mental health programs under that act to pay for mental health services for children and young adults provided through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program (EPSDT).
The proposition would provide more than $225 million in flexible funding for mental health programs.
However, some experts in the mental health field feel that Prop 1E will not do enough to solve the budget crisis and yield dire repercussions on the medical side.
Federal law requires California to fund the EPSDT program, and Prop 1E asks voters to approve the diversion of funds from the Mental Health Services Act to the EPSDT program, said Patricia Ryan, executive director of the California Mental Health Directors Association.
If Proposition 1E does not pass, the state is still obligated to fund the EPSDT program using state general funds, she said.
“The CMHDA has serious concerns about the impact this proposed diversion of MHSA funds could have on the more than 600,000 mental health consumers we serve in all 58 counties, and on the many thousands who still remain unserved,” Ryan said.
A $460 million hit on MHSA funds will negatively impact counties‘ ability to serve the people in our communities with serious mental illnesses, she said. It could also result in more homelessness and hospitalizations.
Despite opposition, many public safety organizations and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson believe it is essential to pass Propositions 1A through 1F in order to ensure stability in California’s budget.
“One of my top priorities as mayor is to ensure we have the police officers and firefighters needed to keep this community safe,” Johnson said in a written statement. “By passing Propositions 1A-1F we will be taking a significant step toward ensuring we have the resources to keep Californians safe, educate our kids, rebuild our roads and much more while also getting to the heart of our budget problems.“
Many California police and fire departments are also in support of this proposition package, believing that the funds will help California public safety programs, especially in the face of another wildfire season.
“With wildfire season upon us, firefighters from across the state should be ramping up their efforts to protect Californians from the catastrophic fire emergencies that we will undoubtedly experience,” said Sacramento Metro Fire District Captain Christian Pebbles.
Now is not the time to scale back funding or fire response capabilities, Pebbles said. In the event that California’s budget problems worsen, the state will look to make cuts at the local level, which would pose a greater threat to local communities in the event of a disaster.
More than 150,000 firefighters, sheriffs, police chiefs and rank and file law enforcement officers have endorsed the measures on the special election ballot.
Yet the opposition is strong, and recent poll numbers show support for Prop 1E lagging.
“Prop 1E will definitely take away from programs,” said Trudy Schafer, spokesperson for the California League of Women Voters. “It will cut about half a billion dollars [from current mental health programs] over the next two years.“
Prop 1E was part of the budget package that was discussed by lawmakers behind closed doors, Schafer said.
“We believe that in general the package was sort of a stop-gap proposal,” she said. “It does not address the real issues in the California budget crisis.“
While the CLWV is not opposed to all the propositions on the special election ballot, its members feel that Prop 1E would make independently funded mental health programs vulnerable, because they will lose significant funding, she added.
“[Prop 1E] would raid existing programs, when what we really need to be looking at is different reforms; such as eliminating the two thirds vote when passing the budget,” Schafer said.
For more information on Proposition 1E visit: voterguide.sos.ca.gov.
CAITLIN COBB can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.