Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) and Prop 63 Home Page

(Laura’s Law Home Page Moved Here)

Issue: In 2004,California voters alturistically passed Proposition 63 (Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), a 1% tax on millionaires to help people with “severe mental illness” and to “prevent mental illness from becoming severe and disabling”. MHSA is an important program that does a lot of good. But mission-creep, insider dealing, and lack of oversight, have enabled both worthy and unworthy social services programs to masquerade as mental illness programs and claim they are eligible for MHSA funds. This bait and switch led to programs that fail to serve the seriously ill being showered with funds while those that do serve the seriously ill go unfunded. A new report found:

Fact Sheets on Problems with Mental Health Services Act

Op-ed explains mission creep and other problems plaguing MHSA

Summary of Problems with Mental Health Services Act

Insider dealing in MHSA

Voters wanted Proposition 63/Mental Health Services Act(MHSA) to help the most seriously mentally ill

Overview: How MHSA Prevention and Early Intervention Funds were diverted from people with mental illness

Examples of statewide misspending on ineffective programs that do not to help people with serious mental illness

County by county misuse of MHSA Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) Funds

Full Service Partnerships (FSP) $2.5 billion unaccounted for

$10 million in MHSA funds go to prevent treatment for the most seriously ill

Who is Responsible for Diverting MHSA (Darrell Steinberg, County MH Directors, Mental Health Industry, Oversight Commissioners)

County Behavioral Healthcare Directors use Stakeholder Input to Divert Funds from Serious Mental Illness

Oversight Commission uses regulatory process to divert MHSA Funds from people with serious mental illness

How to fix problems with Mental Health Services Act (Replace Commissioners with new ones that don’t have conflicts of interest)

Additional Findings

  • The state auditor found that because the Oversight Commissioners failed to provide oversight, taxpayers do not know if MHSA funds were spent effectively or efficiently.
  • County Behavioral Health Directors chaired meetings that allowed “stakeholder input” to trump the legislative language and voter intent to spend the funds on those with serious mental illness.
  • No attempt is made to ensure programs receiving MHSA funds serve people with serious mental illness.(FN1)
  • MHSA funds are being lavished on studies, reports, and consultants that generate jobs for those who get the contracts, but not services for people with serious mental illness. (FN 2)
  • Millions were diverted to programs intended to ‘improve the wellness’ of all Californians, rather than provide treatment to Californians with serious mental illnesses. (FN3)
  • Funds failed to expand the capacity of proven existing programs as the legislation required.
  • The most important programs to help the most seriously ill (like Laura’s Law) are going unfunded.
  • The Oversight Commission evaluated counties based on what they said they were going to do rather than on what they did.
  • A series of amendments and related legislation introduced by legislators made it less likely MHSA funds will ever reach people with serious mental illness. (FN4)

5/7/15: Our response to new MHSOAC regs designed to divert PEI MHSA funds from people with mental illness

2015: Little Hoover Commission says there’s no oversight of $13 billion MHSA funds

2012: California State Auditor Report Finds Lack of Oversight

2011: Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) became “Bait & Switch”

2015: New Regs proposed (8/14) to drive MHSA funds away from people with serious mental illness

Dec 2013: Sen. Darrell Steinberg asks taxpayers to pay twice for same program

Dec 2013: Op-ed urges Jerry Brown to replace MHSA Oversight Commissioners to restore integrity

Letter to Jerry Brown: State auditors found oversight commisioners failed. Replace them.

October 2013: Our proposed Changes to Prevention/Early Intervention Regs

Why doesn’t the public know about this?

$11 million in MHSA funds went to hire a P.R. firm that works to convince the media that all is well. They continually issue press releases and call editorial boards to extol the virtues of the program. County mental health directors and recipients of the diverted funds benefit from the status quo and therefore defend it. Governor Brown and Senator Steinberg appointed recipients of MHSA funds who represent the mental health and social service industries to sit on the Oversight Commission. As a result of this conflict, MHSA is being overseen by cheerleaders for mission creep, rather than stewards of the public purse. This is not what voters wanted to happen or were told would happen. Money is not the issue. Leadership is.

Counties should use Mental Health Services Act (MHSA/Proposition 63) to fund Laura’s Law:

Selected Media Coverage of problems in MHSA caused by failure to replace oversight commissioner

Dec 2013: San Diego Trib on failure of MHSA to serve seriously mentally ill

San Francisco Chronicle: Proposition 63 raised money and expectations, but not services for mental illness (8/15/13)

San Francisco Chronicle: Audit finds funds for mental health services misspent (8/15/2013)

San Francisco Bay Guardian: Slipping Away

Los Angeles Times: Audit finds lack of oversight for Mental Health Services Act spending (8/15/2013)

Sacramento Bee: Auditor says California not watching mental health funds (8/16/2013)

Associated Press Reveals Waste of MHSA Proposition 63 funds

San Diego Union Tribune: Best op-ed on the problem

Chico-Enterprise Editorial: Taxpayer money isn’t free money

Contra Costa Times Editorial: Should ensure Proposition 63 money is used wisely (8/18/13)

Press-Enterprise Editorial State mental-health spending needs tracking, accountability (8/19/13)

SF Chronicle: Mental “health” industry diverts MHSA money meant to help people with mental “illness”

Prop 63 Missing Goals (SacBee)

Mental Health Services Act Funds Being Wasted (3 articles by Mental Illness Policy Org)

New Report: $16 million of MHSA funds goes to organizations directly associated with Oversight Commission (MHSAOC)

Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) creating a two-tier mental health system (News Review)

NAMI says MHSA fails. (Note: NAMI subsequently got $3 million grant and is now satisfied)

Rose King’s Whistleblower complaint: Prop 63 not reaching intended target

MHSA co-author on how Prop/63 MHSA money is wasted and diverted

Whistleblower says Prop63/MHSA not working for mentally ill Californians

Legislators call for Auditing Prop 63

MHSA Source documents

Regulatory and other organizations that play a role in distrubuting fund

California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC is supposed to oversee MHSA spending. The state auditor said they failed

California Department of Heatlh Care Services (now has some MHSA Oversight responsibilities formerly held by MHSOAC)

California Institute of Mental Health (Founded by local mental heatlh directors to provide policy direction. See Insider Dealing)

California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA is a “Joint Authority” made up of CA counties that pool MHSA resources to run certain programs so each county does not reinvent the wheel. See “Insider Dealing’)

Learn How much MHSA (Prop 63) money your county received

MHSOAC 3 Year Plan Requirements for Counties (8/1/05)

MHSOAC 2/09 Minutes on 2 Tier System

Department of Finance review critical of MHSA Rollout

Problems MHSA Oversight Commissioners should be addressing, but ignore

County by county info on Mental Health Services Act / Prop 63 funds

Note: MHSA Plans change annually, so many of the links below are not likely to the most recent county MHSA plan. Google “name of county” “MHSA” to find the latest.



Alameda County Behavioral Health Home Page


Contra Costa

ContraCosta County MHSA Plan

Contra Costa MHSA Home Page



Kern County MHSA Home Page

Kern County MHSA Plan


Los Angeles

Los Angeles County Proposition 63 Plan

LA County Stakeholder Process Problems

LA Report says Laura’s Law works


Nevada County

Mendocino County Proposition 63/MHSA Home Page

Mendocio MHSA Plan Update

Mental Health Dept convinces Supervisors to not use Laura’s Law (7/12)

Ft. Bragg Advocate on Laura’s Law

Op-ed by James Bassler on why his mentally ill son killed two and how Laura’s Law would have helped(Fort Bragg News)

Explanatory Letter to Editor Ukiah Daily Journal on why Mendocino needs Laura’s Law (by DJ Jaffe)

Letter to Editor by James Bassler (father of Aaron) (Ukiah News) on logic of Laura’s Law

Laura’s Law might save county money, force better services (Ft. Bragg Advocate)

County by county info on Mental Health Services Act / Prop 63 funds (cont.)

Orange County

Misspending Plagues Orange County MHSA programs

Analysis of Report by Orange County Health Care Agency to Supervisors (Important)

Preventable Tragedies in Orange County (PDF Version)

Response to OC Health Care Agency Report to Supervisors (by NAMI Orange County & California Treatment Advocacy Coalition)

Ending Homelessness 2020 Testimony on Laura’s Law by Carla Jacobs

Preventable Tragedies in Orange County (PDF Version) Health Care Agency misleads County Supervisors

(OC Register)



Preventable Tragedies in Sacramento

Laura’s Law Languishes (Sacramento News and Review)


San Diego

Dec 2013: San Diego Trib on failure of MHSA to serve seriously mentally ill


San Francisco County

New: Op-ed, editorial, article SF Chronicle

San Francisco Ignores Mentally ill

Ignore mentally ill and court disaster (SF Chronicle)

San Francisco Prevention and Early Intervention Plan

San Luis Obispo Prop 63 Home Page

San Luis Obispo


San Luis Obispo Tribune Special Report on Mental Illness

San Mateo County MHSA Home Page

Analysis of San Mateo Officials Claims About Laura’s Law(Important)

Preventable Tragedies in San Mateo (PDF Version here)


Shasta County

MHSA Funded Suicide Prevention Activities Fail


Siskiyou County

Tragedies are preventable


Sonoma County

Sonoma Behavioral Health Care Director defends status quo (and read our response)


Stanislaus County


Other Media

California Emergency Rooms Very Expensive Way to treat mental illness (LA Times)

FN 1Many of the outcome reports used to be online. None include any info on the diagnosis of people served.

FN 2 Ex. The Oversight Commission put out an RFP for an evaluation to evaluate the evaluations. Neither the original evaluations or the evaluation of the evaluations require evaluation of whether the people being served were seriously mentally ill individuals eligible for services.

FN3The Oversight Commission itself created an eight page glossy insert for papers throughout the state headlined, “Mental Illness: It Affects Everyone, even though the legislation is not intended to affect everyone. See (accessed 6/23/12).

FN4 Most notably, AB-100 took $863 million out of the MHSA fund and directed it to fund programs courts had mandated the state to fund. AB 1467 (July 2012) essentially disconnected Innovative Funds (5% of total MHSA funds) from a connection with serious mental illness.