Newsom signs landmark bills to revolutionize State’s mental health system

October 13, 2023 /

Yesterday, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 326 and Assembly Bill 531, which means people in California will now have the ability to change and transform the state’s mental health system.

With $6.38 billion dollars, new behavioral health and housing treatments will be built across the state.

“This is a terrific day for California as the Governor’s signature sets in motion the transformation of our state’s behavioral health system to fully reflect the many challenges we face today. The bond provides, among other things, $1.5 billion dollars to expand the continuum of behavioral health treatment resources, specifically including, for the first time, new acute care inpatient psychiatric beds which are critically needed for emergency situations where a short-term stay is essential for mental health stabilization and treatment,” said AB 531 Co-Author Senator Richard Roth.

For the first time in decades, this funding will provide more than 11,150 new beds and housing and 26,700 outpatient treatment slots. Individuals in California will be able to officially vote for this on March 24, 2024. It’ll be listed on the ballot as Proposition 1. 

“These reforms, and this new investment in behavioral health housing, will help California make good on promises made decades ago. We see the signs of our broken system every day – too many Californians suffering from mental health needs or substance use disorders and unable to get the support or care they need. This will prioritize getting people off the streets, out of tents, and into treatment,” said Governor Newsom.

According to the CA.Gov website, these reforms expand services to include treatment for those with substance use disorders, prioritize care for those with the most serious mental illness, provide ongoing resources for housing and workforce, and continue investments in prevention, early intervention, and innovative pilot programs. This bill reforms the system of care to prioritize what Californians need today with new and increased accountability for real results for all families and communities.

Assembly Bill 326 will help serve tens of thousands of people annually. From intensive services for homeless people with severe mental illness to counseling for kids suffering from depression, and everyone in between. This investment would be the single largest expansion of California’s behavioral health treatment and residential settings in the state’s history creating new, dedicated housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness who have behavioral health needs, with a dedicated investment to serve veterans. 

These settings will provide Californians experiencing behavioral health conditions a place to stay while safely stabilizing, healing, and receiving ongoing support. Included in the bond is a $1 billion set aside specifically for veterans’ housing.

“The mental health crisis– especially amongst youth– is the most significant public health concern of our time. I’m so proud of our nation-leading mental health movement and ongoing work to transform the state’s behavioral health system in a way that is comprehensive, holistic, and intentionally focused on recognizing the humanity in each and every Californian,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

The Ca.Gov website also said the California Mental Health Movement will encompass more than $28 billion and focus on real results and increased accountability, includes four key pillars:

Treatment and housing for those who need it most: $10.9 billion to create approximately 24,800 beds/units. It also creates 45,800 outpatient treatment slots for Californians with behavioral health issues across the spectrum — everything from intense, inpatient care, to substance abuse treatment, to outpatient care and counseling.

Increasing access to mental health services for all: Investing over $10.1 billion to increase access to behavioral health services for all Californians. Transforming Medi-Cal to expand behavioral health services and crucial care for one in three Californians, offering new crisis care and targeted veteran and older adult services, and developing a plan to require private and commercial health plans to raise their standards to match Medi-Cal behavioral health plans.

Building our healthcare workforce: California is investing $5.1 billion, and proposing an additional $2.4 billion investment through reforms to the Mental Health Services Act, to train and support more than 65,000 new healthcare workers over the next five years to ensure we have the workforce to provide culturally responsive services and care to all who need them.

Supporting and serving kids: The investments include $4.6 billion to support children through the Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health and give California’s 10,000 public schools the opportunity to get enhanced funding to increase student behavioral health services.

The Mental Health Services Act has been a great success – but after nearly 20 years it’s time to update it in a manner that is consistent with reforms in health care coverage and our increased understanding of behavioral health. The new Behavioral Health Services Act will drive resources to those with the greatest needs, including those with substance use disorders, and provide for real accountability with a focus on outcomes. Paired with Assemblymember Irwin’s essential bond, these new and restructured investments deliver on exactly what Californians deserve to address this crisis of behavioral health and homelessness. I’m grateful to this Governor for his commitment to those suffering and for his laser focus on critical reform,” said SB 326 Author and Senate Health Committee Chair Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman.

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