LOS ANGELES – Gov. Gavin Newsom used Los Angeles General Medical Center as a backdrop Thursday to sign legislation that will place a $6.38 billion bond measure on the March ballot to fund thousands of mental health treatment beds and supportive housing.
According to Newsom’s office, the funding that would come from the AB 531 bond measure, if approved by a majority of the state’s voters, would create 11,150 behavioral health treatment beds across the state, along with housing and 26,700 outpatient treatment slots.
The $6.38 billion investment included in what will be known on the ballot as Proposition 1 “would be the single largest expansion of California’s behavioral health treatment and residential settings in our state’s history,” according to the governor’s office, which noted the impact it will have on tackling homelessness given the number of people on the streets with mental health issues. Meanwhile, $1 billion of the money would be earmarked to provide housing for veterans.
Newsom also signed SB 326, an update to the Mental Health Services Act of 2004 that backers say will expand treatment for people with substance use disorders and prioritize care for patients with the most serious mental illness, while also setting aside money for housing.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass was among those in attendance for the bill-signing event, hailing the legislation as a critical part of efforts to solve the homelessness crisis.
“We cannot address the homelessness crisis if we do not also address the mental health and substance abuse crisis on our streets,” Bass said in a statement.
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn also praised the legislation, writing on X that if the bond measure is passed by voters, “we will be able to build tens of thousands of new places where we will not only treat severe mental illness, but where people with severe mental illness can live while they get well.”
Officials with Los Angeles General Medical Center issued a statement saying the bond measure will provide needed relief for “safety net hospitals” — like LA General — struggling to find placement for mental health patients in sub-acute care treatment facilities better equipped to provide longer-term care.
“Due to the severe shortage of sub-acute psychiatric beds, some LA General patients remain in the hospital’s acute care facility for months to years on end as they await transfer,” according to the hospital.
“Tragically, the patients that are the most challenging to place are often the ones with the highest need for long-term, customized care,” LAGMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brad Spellberg said in a statement. “This includes patients with histories of incarceration — sometimes for violent crimes. Unfortunately, patient violence directed at our staff, or even at other patients, is a common occurrence. Often this violence grows out of the frustration our patients experience due to being `stuck’ in an acute care setting, which is the most restrictive clinical setting. It is imperative, both for our staff and our patients, that we take steps to address these issues.”