The mentally ill too often end up on the streets where they are in all sorts of danger, often ending up in jail or in Emergency rooms which is very expensive and totally ineffective. Parents and friends now have no alternatives when they see loved ones sinking into madness but that will soon change. Help is on the way. Seventy-five million in mental health grants aim to stabilize residents with severe mental illness before they land in jail or suffer multiple hospitalizations.
Twenty grants will go to 28 counties for new or expanded services. They will add 827 residential mental health beds and crisis "stabilization" beds, and pay for more than three dozen vehicles and five dozen staff members for mobile support teams, which will accompany local law enforcement to defuse tense situations when dealing with the sometimes violent mentally unstable.
"These programs will save lives , help keep mental health patients out of jails and hospital emergency rooms, and prevent needless suffering," State Treasurer Bill Lockyer said in a statement on Thursday.
The money awarded amounts to about half the disbursements which are allowed under the Investment in Mental Health Wellness Act of 2013, which was created by legislation sponsored last year by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, the Democrat from Sacramento.
"Our criminal justice system and hospital emergency rooms are packed full of people who end up there because they were arrested or hospitalized during a mental health crisis and had nowhere else to go," Steinberg said. "More crisis residential beds and mental health crisis teams can make the difference between recovery and a downward spiral into severe mental illness."
The act disperses the money throughout the states' 28 counties and designates the maximum amount of money each region can receive. Those not awarded their maximum allocation in the first round can apply for additional funds in subsequent rounds if the need arises.
Los Angeles County alone has received $40.9 million to create 35 crisis residential programs, four crisis stabilization units and 16 mobile crisis support teams. Overall, Los Angeles County will add 560 residential beds, 72 stabilization beds, and five vehicles and 17 staff for mobile crisis support teams.
Four counties -- Sonoma, Fresno, San Joaquin and Los Angeles -- plan to reserve some stabilization beds for adolescents, who are particularly under-served.
This money comes mostly from the state but federal ACA funds are also expected to be used. "It's about time," stated a mental health nurse. "These services are so badly needed."
"Plus," added a senator, "In the long run these services will save the state tons of money. It's not only humane, it a good investment."