Darrell Steinberg, the MHSA Oversight Commission, County Behavioral Health Directors and the Mental Health Industry are Responsible for Failure of MHSA to help People with Serious Mental Illness

A report by Mental Illness Policy Org called the Mental Health Services Act a 10-year, $10 Billion Bait and Switch that leaves the seriously mentally ill underserved. Who is responsible?

The Oversight Commission

The independent California State Auditor clearly stated the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) failed to provide oversight. This is not surprising. The Oversight Commissioners receive funds for their programs, approve distribution of the funds, hire outside evaluators to prove they are doing a good job and PR firms to convince the public all is well. In any other area of government this would be a conflict of interest. The legislature should prohibit recipients of funds from sitting on the Commission that overses distribution of the funds. The problems with MHSA are not ‘under the radar,’ they are caused by the radar operators. The Oversight Commissioners have become cheerleaders for mission creep and cronyism rather than careful stewards of public funds

California County Behavioral Health Directors

County behavioral directors–thirty-four of whom recently voted themselves MHSA-funded IPads —have led and let the stakeholder process circumvent the language of the law and intent of the voters. They are funding anything brought to them by stakeholders, rather than limiting funding to serious mental illness programs.

California’s non-profit mental ‘health’ and social service industries

California’s non-profit mental health and social service industries provide an important safety net for many Californians. But in a gold-rush like attempt to garner funds for their own programs, they threw those with serious mental illness under the bus. Non-profits and associations like Disability Rights California, NAMI California, Mental Health America of California, each of which receive over $3 million and have representation on the Oversight Commission put their own parochial needs ahead of those of people with serious mental illness.

Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg and the Legislature

Many of the citizens who contributed information to this report told us the Senate leader’s heart is in the right place and he can be part of the solution. Unfortunately, when we look at the facts, we are forced to conclude that since passage, the Senate President Pro-Tem Steinberg has been part of the problem.  He introduced and the legislature passed numerous bills that subverted the intent of voters to use the funds to help the most seriously ill. SB 1467 ensured fewer Innovation Funds reached persons with mental illness. Provisions he inserted in AB-100 diverted $836 million of MHSA funds to fund pre-existing state obligations . His opposition to SB 664 made it harder for counties to implement Laura’s Law. His opposition to AB-1265 guaranteed mentally ill prisoners would go untreated upon end of their sentence.  SB-364 as proposed made it more dangerous for parents to call authorities to help mentally ill loved ones. We would love to see the Senator resume a leadership role in improving services for people with serious mental illnesses. Recommendations on how to do so are attached.

Darrell Steinberg asks Californians to pay twice for same program. Fails Mentally Ill

On December 19,2013, California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg asked for more money for Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grants.

If Prop 63/MHSA funds were spent as legislatively required, no new funds would be needed. MHSA already specifically earmarked funds for this. MHSA Sec. 5813.5 (f) says:

Each county (MHSA) plan and annual update pursuant to Section 5847 shall consider ways to provide services similar to those established pursuant to the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction Grant Program.

The problem, as we revealed in MHSA: A 10 year bait and switch, is that MHSA promised funds for serious mental illness. But once the bills passed, the funds went elsewhere.

Yesterday’s press conference announcing he is seeking funds to pay for something MHSA was supposed to, is another example of how Steinberg and the MHSA Oversight Commission ignore the parts of the legislation that require funds to reach the most seriously mentally ill. They fund mental ‘health’, but starve “mental illness”.

Darrell Steinberg can not charge taxpayers twice for the same program. MHSA funds must go to seriously mentally ill. The State auditor found there is no MHSA oversight that assures they do. If Steinberg isn’t clueless, he must be complicit.

Conclusion: It is undeniable that some people with serious mental Illness are being helped by MHSA, but unmitigated mission creep has left many of the most seriously mentally ill seriously underserved. There is an unregulated feeding frenzy going on and Prop 63 is on its way to becoming a “Ten Year, $10 Billion Bait and Switch.”

Our op-ed in December 19, 2013 San Diego Union Trib calls on Brown to replace MHSAOC commissioners as only way to end mission-creep in the program. 13 of 16 Commissioners come from within mental health industry and therefore foster, rather than reign-in mission creep. As long as fox rules hen house, our attempts at change will continue to fail.

Someone should go to jail.


Through CalMHSA, a Joint Power Authority funded with MHSA Prevention funds.

See Appendix C. How Senate President Pro-Tem Exempted an additional 5% of MHSA funds (Innovative Services Funds) from helping persons with serious mental illness.

There is a “non-supplantation” clause of Prop 63 (5891) that required the maintenance of funding for previously existing programs so MHSA funds can result in incremental activity. AB-100 used MHSA funds to pay for programs California was already under court order to pay or was otherwise funding. Put another way, $836 million of MHSA funds were used to lower the budget deficit.