(Paul Seeman was a member of the California Judicial Council’s Task Force on Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues, and founder of the Alameda County Juvenile Mental Health Court)
The Rand Corporation recently published an evaluation of the Mental Health Services Act implementation in Los Angeles County since the passage of Proposition 63 in 2004 – the “millionaire’s tax.” The MHSA generates more than$2 billion annually for mental health care in California for programs ranging from early intervention and prevention to full-service care for people with serious brain illnesses. Among the key findings:
- From 2012 through 2016, the L.A. County Department of Mental Health provided prevention and early intervention services to almost 130,000 youth and intensive clinical and social services to stabilize those with serious psychiatric illnesses to almost 25,000 youth and adults.
- Rates of homelessness and inpatient hospital stays fell dramatically while rates of employment and connection with a primary care doctor markedly improved.
- Children and young adults enrolled in full service partnership programs tended to be low-income and suffering from depressive disorder, schizophrenia or other psychotic conditions. Their overall rates of homelessness and inpatient hospital stays were significantly reduced over the course of treatment.
Taken as a whole, the report underscores the remarkable benefits of early intervention efforts both in terms of the human toll and as a cost-effective public investment. The other core services measured in the RAND analysis involved full service partnership programs that offer intensive services to people who suffer from serious mental illness that have progressed to the point of severe dysfunction. Most of these individuals are homeless,making them harder to engage and treat with any regularity.