California Seeks Places to Treat Mental Disorders and Addictions

California voters will decide whether to fund a major housing expansion and treatment for residents suffering from mental illness and addictions, under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest proposal to address the state’s homelessness crisis.

On Sunday, Newsom announced that he would ask allies in the Democratic-controlled Legislative Assembly to pass action on a 2024 vote to allow funding for housing developments that could house up to 12,000 people a year. The plan is the latest from the governor, who took office in 2019, who has pledged to take on the challenge of homelessness in a state that left about 171,000 people homeless last year.

The Governor called the plan the next step in expanding California’s services for the homeless, especially for people with psychological and substance use disorders.

“We must consider and recognize the reality of mental health in this state and in our country. The question is, what can we do more and better?” Newsom announced this at a press conference.

Home to nearly 40 million people, California is home to almost a third of the nation’s homeless population and the number is growing much faster than other states, according to a California Public Policy Institute analysis of federal data. Campgrounds have sprung up on sidewalks and under highway overpasses, and clearly mentally disturbed people are a common sight on city streets.

The initiative will be funded in part by general obligation bonds that will raise between $3 billion and $5 billion to build “campus-type” facilities, as well as small houses and long-term residential units, Newsom said.

In addition, he will revise the California Mental Health Services Act, an initiative approved by voters in 2004 that would levy a 1% tax on income in excess of $1 million to fund mental health services. Some lawmakers have complained that the money from the initiative has bypassed those who need it most, and Newsom’s office said the new version will improve oversight of counties.

“The annual upgrade will generate $1 billion in housing, treatment for substance abuse disorders, and more,” the Governor’s office said in a statement.

The California State Association of Counties, which represents all 58 California counties, said in a statement Sunday that it will work with the governor and lawmakers to establish “clear responsibilities, accountability and funding for all levels of government” to address homelessness.

D-Stockton State Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman will introduce the measure, which will also provide money to accommodate more than 10,000 homeless veterans across the state, according to the announcement.

Newsom released the details of the plan during a Sunday afternoon stop in San Diego. The governor is in the midst of a five-day state tour that he is using to highlight his major political goals. The tour replaced the traditional address to the state.

On Thursday, Newsom announced a plan to spend about $30 million to build 1,200 small homes across the state to help accommodate people living on the streets. Houses can be assembled quickly, and their cost is several times less than the cost of building permanent housing. Federal courts have ruled that cities cannot clear out camps for the homeless if there are no free beds.

On Monday, Newsom will travel to Imperial County to discuss how California is poised to become a global leader in electric vehicles and clean energy, his office said in a statement.

The governor’s move across California comes at a difficult time for the state. After several profitable years in Sacramento, California has a $22.5 billion deficit, with state revenues falling as the stock market slows.

Recent polls show that half of California voters, including most independent voters, believe the Democratic-majority state is heading in the wrong direction. And after years of growth, the state’s population is shrinking as people look elsewhere for more affordable homes and a better quality of life.

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