Mental health homeless ballot initiative
Gov. Gavin Newsom, and behind him, on the left, county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, and on the right, state Sen. Toni Atkins. Photo credit: Screen shot: @CAGovernor via Twitter

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a College East hospital Sunday to announce “a big idea” ballot measure to address homelessness, mental health and substance addiction in California.

Newsom made the proposal during one of his final “state of the state” tour stops at Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, with several state and local officials.

The governor said “we have to address and come to grips” with providing permanent housing for the homeless, mental health treatment and drug addiction. He called it “the most acute challenge the state faces.”

He proposed a statewide measure that would go before voters in November 2024 to “modernize how California treats mental illness, substance-use disorder and homelessness.”

Part of the plan would be paid for with general obligation bonds for building new community mental health facilities in California. More than 10,000 Californians with mental illness and substance abuse disorders would be served, Newsom said.

The ballot measure would also amend a mental health act, passed by voters nearly 20 years ago, to fund programs for residents with serious mental health issues.

That act levies a 1% tax on incomes more than $1 million each year to help pay for California’s mental health system. Newsom said he wants to add $1 billion a year for housing those with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

The ballot measure also would assist veterans. “Nobody does it better than the folks down in San Diego, having the backs of our veterans,” the governor said.

“We own this moment,” he added. “We’re going to win this thing in November 2024.”

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, called Newsom’s proposal “a bold idea. We’re at the beginning of the next stage of behavioral health reform.”

Also on hand to endorse the governor’s plan were state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who co-authored the Mental Health Services Act in 2004.

Atkins expressed her gratitude for Newsom making the announcement in San Diego, adding that she thinks he chose the region “because he knows he has real partners in our county (and) our city” on mental-health issues, while also citing “our partnerships with organizations that are doing the work on the ground every single day.”

Other local officials who attended the event were state Assemblyman Christopher Ward and San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

“There is a great commitment to adhere to a belief that individuals struggling from behavioral health issues, mental health injury or illness or addictions, need to be afforded the same access to care and a quality life as anyone else is,” Fletcher said.

The measure would need to be approved by the legislature to make the ballot, then by California voters.

The announcement came one day after Newsom, during his tour across California, stopped in Downey to announce a partnership with Civica RX to provide low-cost insulin to Californians, and also to announce that the state will manufacture its own lower-cost naloxone, the drug that reverses the effect of an opioid overdose.

The governor began his tour Thursday in Sacramento where he discussed plans to build 1,200 small homes across the state to address homelessness. The next day he focused on a plan to overhaul San Quentin State Prison.

– Staff and wire reports