Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and state Sen. Scott Weiner make a reasonable case for why youth should be prioritized for Mental Health Service Act funding (“Bill would streamline strategies for health care funds,” California Forum, Aug. 5).
Unfortunately, they left out some very important facts that should be considered prior to blindly supporting Senate Bill 1004 on Prevention and Early Intervention funding.
They write that 50 percent of serious mental illness takes root by age 14, and 75 percent by age 25. That means 25 percent of serious mental illness occurs after that age. Don’t one-quarter of Californians with later onset mental illness deserve prevention and early intervention services? Also, adults between age 45 and 64 have the highest rates of suicide, and suicide among adults age 35 to 64 between 1999 and 2010 has risen sharply.
In addition, a report on the Mental Health Service Act documents that about 65 percent of funding already goes to children and youth. Yet the bill narrowly defines prevention and early intervention outreach as targeting “secondary school and transition age youth, with a priority on partnerships with college mental health programs.” This cuts out all other population groups. Is that really the direction the Legislature wants to give?
The authors “make no apologies” to those who object to putting a priority on youth. But they owe Californians more than an apology. They owe Californians a fair legislative process that doesn’t dismantle the stakeholder process and the inclusion of all age groups that is the foundation of the MHSA.
I agree that there is room for improvement in the oversight and implementation of MHSA funding. But SB 1004 is discriminatory, will shift funding from people in need and, most importantly, will change the inclusiveness that Californians voted for in 2004.
Janet C. Frank is a faculty associate with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The views expressed are her own, and she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.