SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) and the Steinberg Institute announced the introduction of legislation focused on increasing accountability and improving outcomes through California’s landmark Mental Health Services Act (MHSA).

Senate Bill 970 - the MHSA Outcomes and Accountability Act - would require counties to set ambitious goals for their MHSA programs and would expand the state’s role to monitor and publicly report county progress.  The legislation, the first significant update to MHSA since its adoption by voters in 2004, consists of four main components: 1) Establishing measurable outcomes that address top public priorities, 2) Creating an online dashboard to track outcomes, 3) Supporting county collaboration and sharing best practices, and 4) Allowing county goals and measurable outcomes to drive spending. 

 “The MHSA has been instrumental in changing the approach to treating those with serious mental illness in California and its fundamental focus on community-based treatment provides a strong foundation for improving outcomes amidst a troubling landscape. We’ve seen deaths from opioid and methamphetamine use skyrocket, more than 50,000 people experiencing homelessness live with a serious mental health condition, and rates of major depression among adolescents increased by more than 50% over 12 years. This contributed to a doubling in the number of ER visits by suicidal children and teenagers.”

“Each of these heartbreaking facts compels us to ask whether MHSA funds are focused on meeting our communities’ greatest needs.  This legislation strengthens the state/counties partnership, supports innovation, and adds accountability through the identification of specific goals and a transparent tracking of outcomes,” said Senator Eggman.

“While many counties have adopted innovative approaches to expand and improve behavioral health services, there is little accountability for measuring progress or achieving specific outcomes,” said Steinberg Institute Executive Director Maggie Merritt. “We continue to see people living with severe mental illness suffering on our streets or cycling through hospitalizations with no long-term recovery in sight.”

Since its adoption, the MHSA has provided more than $18 billion to strengthen the state’s behavioral health infrastructure and support services focused on wellness and recovery.  Its successes include broad expansion of the proven Full Service Partnership model, creation of wellness and recovery centers throughout the state, and a shift in public attitudes toward people with behavioral health conditions.