Why San Diego Is Spending Millions to Address Mental Health

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San Diego County has spent $700 million since 2005 to address serous mental health problems. Photo courtesy County News Center

By Dave Roberts

I am proud to serve on a board that sends resources where they are needed most.

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That’s what happened at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting: a 4-0 vote to approve $10 million to provide housing for severely mentally-ill.

Our action paves the way to greatly expand our Behavioral Health Services Permanent Supportive Housing Program, which has developed 241 dwelling units since its inception in 2008.

The $10 million appropriation is part of a $145.5 million spending plan for funds from California’s Mental Health Services Act. Approved by voters in 2004, the Act — and the programs it has funded — has provided promise for many people who had long since given up hope.

Supervisor Dave Roberts

Top among them are homeless people who suffer from serious mental illness.

Meeting their extraordinary needs begins with finding them a decent place to live.

As a member of the county’s Behavioral Health Advisory Board, that’s what I hear again and again from mental health experts and clients — that supportive housing is key to changing the life of a mentally-ill person.

The behavioral health board was one of many groups that endorsed the update to the county’s Mental Health Services Act plan ahead of the Supervisors’ vote. The update now heads to the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission.

In addition to funds for housing, the mental health plan includes:

  • Resources for Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams, In-Home Outreach Teams and the implementation of Laura’s Law, which provides for court-ordered treatment of severely mentally-ill people who refuse care and present a risk to themselves or others;
  • Funding for prevention and early-intervention programs;
  • The development of “Innovation” programs that provide family therapy, treatment for caregivers, hoarding intervention and peer-based assistance;
  • Resources for the care — and caregivers — of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients;
  • Workforce education and training; and
  • Physical and technological improvements to existing mental health centers, including the completion of a residential crisis stabilization center in Escondido.

This program sends the County of San Diego in the right direction on mental health.

In related business, in September we reported a decline in suicides and the launch of a suicide-prevention campaign: Know the Signs, Find the Words, Reach out.

And in October, at locations across the county, our Behavioral Health Services division will host a series of forums. We want to hear your thoughts on mental health services, how we can improve them and how Mental Health Services Act funds should be spent. Please take advantage of this opportunity to engage with experts on the topic of mental health.

For times and locations, visit the county’s “It’s Up to Us” Web site at www.up2sd.org.

Since 2005, the County of San Diego has spent more than $700 million of funds from the Mental Health Service Act.

We truly take seriously our obligation to allocate these funds.

That’s why we develop our plans in close consultation with community partners, clients and advocates to identify needs and areas where service can be improved.


Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

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