MONDAY, JULY 25, 2011

A few months ago Californians headed to the polls to select our current Governor Jerry Brown. During the selection process, I spoke with and heard from a many people who were undecided about selecting either Meg Whitman who dumped $150million of her own money into her campaign to buy the Governor’s chair vs. the ailing former California Governor Jerry Brown.  As there was no clear standout, I heard a comment “we must chose the lesser of two evils.”

Obviously Jerry Brown is now Governor of California facing the states most challenging budget deficit to date. In selecting the lesser of two evils, I point out an evil decision currently playing out.  Governor Brown has decided to eliminate the State Department of Mental Health and establish a State Department of Hospitals which is likely to be under the authority of the State Department of Corrections.

In eliminating the State Department of Mental Health, individuals and families facing and residing in poverty lose a strong advocate toward increased support and funding in many of  California’s vulnerable communities.  Our jails have been identified as Mental Health institutions since Former President and then Governor Ronald Reagan deinstitutionalized Mental Health Facilities.  This top down decision left many homeless or facing incarceration.  Currently over two-thirds of California inmates in jeopardy of facing onset of a mental disability.

Thirty-three thousand low level offenders will be release back into already vulnerable communities beginning October 1st due to prison overcrowding. While there is a scramble to decide the authoritative agency to facilitate this transition with limited funding support it’s not been determined who will be assessing these individuals prior to release. An inmate’s mental state must be determined prior to release to ensure their willingness to comply with the law.

It’s not anticipated these inmates will return and seek mental health services and if they do it puts a strain on an already underfunded and fragmented system. Not to mention their release comes at a time jobs are few and far between and the community has already suffered economically through the recession.

I point this out because were such a reactive society. Once the back door dealing is done we then will raise hell for a few minutes and quietly comply. While this decision is already made, you can support Mental Health by sending an email to: dhcsmhmedi-caltransfer@dhcs.ca.gov indicating your displeasure with this new realignment and that mental health should operate and function as its own separate entity to ensure the voice of individuals and families who require these services are not suppressed and lost in the bureaucratic shuffle.

FYI – Governor Brown has also used $840 million of Mental Health Service Act dollars further decreasing resources to individuals and families in need.  And please understand mental health services are not simply for poor Blacks and Mexicans. What crack cocaine did to the inner city during the 1980’s, Crystal Meth is doing to White America today. All Americans could benefit from transformed mental health services.

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