Gov. Newsom pushing ballot measure authorizing $6 billion for mental health, drug abuse treatment

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Saturday, March 2, 2024
Gov. Newsom makes stop in SoCal to raise support for Prop. 1
Gov. Gavin Newsom stopped in the Coachella Valley to raise support for Proposition 1 as Election Day gets nearer.

INDIO, Calif. (KABC) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom toured a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility in the Coachella Valley Friday morning.

He used the opportunity to push a ballot measure that he said, if approved by voters on March 5, will help address the growing problem.

Proposition 1 would authorize the state to spend $6.4 billion to build more facilities for mental health care and substance abuse treatment.

"We're going all in," Newsom said at a news conference following his tour of ABC Recovery Center in Indio. "This is a scale and scope unlike anything we've seen anywhere in the United States."

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Newsom noted that at the time the facility in Indio was built - back in the 1960s - there were approximately 37,000 beds available statewide to treat patients.

Today that number has dropped to approximately 5,500.

"Is it any wonder that we're struggling to address the magnitude of this issue? We simply don't have the beds," Newsom said. "And beds are foundational; they're critical."

Newsom said if Prop. 1 is approved, it would authorize and fund an additional 11,000 beds. He said Prop. 1 would be paid for out of the state's general fund and change the way money from the Mental Health Services Act, passed by voters in 2004, can be used.

"This is not a tax increase," Newsom said. "This is a redirection of an existing tax that was established decades ago for a world that no longer exists."

But there are many who don't support Prop. 1, including Assemblyman Bill Essayli, a Republican from Corona.

"We can all acknowledge homelessness is a serious, rising issue in the state of California, but Prop. 1 is built on the fallacy that money is the solution to the problem, which we know now it's not," Essayli said. "The state of California has already spent $23 billion and the problem has only gotten worse.

"What we need are policy changes - reverse things like Prop 47. which made it impossible for officers to get people off the street and into treatment. We need enforcement, not money... I don't think throwing another $6 billion at the problem is going to make it better until we change our actual policies and we force people into treatment and help."