Prop 1E: Mental Health Services Funding

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Prop 1E isn’t very popular in California’s health care community. Some say it’s an unappealing necessity while others, like John Buck, say the cost is just too high. Buck’s the CEO of Turning Point Community Programs, which provides mental health services in the Sacramento region.

Buck says if Prop 1E passes it could mean lay-offs for some of his 400 employees. And he says it would jeopardize key services for his clients, like a housing program for the chronically homeless and the mentally ill.

“We’re going to have to turn our backs on a whole lot of folks in the community and say I’m sorry, we don’t have the resources, the financial resources, to provide you with any service.” 

Buck points to people like Roxann Jeppeson, who lives in subsidized housing and gets mental health care through Turning Point. Jeppeson had been homeless for thirty years before she moved in to a new, one bedroom cottage in January. 
“I have panic attacks, I have agoraphobia, I have other issues on top of my bipolar. But it helps because it gives me a place to get away from everybody if I need to."
Prop 1E would shift $460 milllion tagged for mental health services to help balance the state budget over the next two years. That money comes from Proposition 63, passed by voters in 2004. It’s a one percent income tax on Californians who make more than a million dollars a year. 

So here’s the dilemma -- approving Prop 1E would mean some cuts to mental health services in the near future. But supporters like the California Hospital Association say:
“If the measure fails and the state ends up with a $14 billion or higher budget deficit more dramatic cuts will be made, and they’ll be broader and deeper to the entire health care safety net.”

That’s CHA spokeswoman Jan Emerson who says Prop 1E is the lesser of two evils.
“It’s not a good choice. We don’t like having to support this ballot measure.” 

And Emerson says whether Prop 1E passes or not, more health care cuts are expected. She says that’s because the measure won’t solve the larger problem with health care -- California’s system is crumbling as demand is up and money’s short.