Mental Health Services Act - Legislative Road Map for 2019

According to the Department of Finance, California is projecting to invest over $2.4 Billion for Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funded services for the upcoming budget.  Of this amount, $2.009 billion is projected to be provided as local assistance in FY 2019-20 to counties for local MHSA services.  This translates to statewide investments of roughly $1.5 billion in Community Services, $381.7 million Prevention and Early Intervention and $100.4 million Innovative County Programs. Throughout the state we see successes of consumer-focused care funded by this program. 

One example is the “What’s Up? Wellness Checkups” (WUWC) program, funded by Nevada County MHSA Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) dollars.  This program screens high school students in the Nevada Joint Union High School District and Tahoe Truckee Unified School District for suicide risk, depression, anxiety, and other emotional health issues.

 Students privately take a brief, computerized diagnostic questionnaire, followed by a one-on-one interview with program staff, who then connect students with community resources, in-school supports, and/or case management and crisis support as needed.  In the case of a necessary, immediate connection or referral, program staff serve as one of the primary support systems for the student’s family, providing both in-person and phone-based crisis intervention and referrals to local crisis agencies.  Nevada County What’s Up? Wellness Checkups staff also facilitate evidence-based stress reduction groups for students on campus, as extra prevention support for those identified with mild to moderate symptoms. This program identifies and helps youth at-risk, promotes wellness, increases peer support systems, and strengthens family connections.

One of the main strengths of the WUWC program is screening and helping students who are experiencing mental health symptoms that have not yet been identified.  In one case:

 Program staff helped a student who had been identified in school as having “discipline” issues and had been given a few detentions.  Because of the checkup, they were able to see that the student was experiencing acute anxiety and possible panic attacks in school and often left class to become calm.  The student was afraid to approach teachers with this issue. Staff connected with the teen and their parent to get permission to talk with the school counselor and connect the student with STARS (Student Assistance Resources & Services).  The teen began working with the counselor on tools to not only manage stress in school but also develop a plan with teachers for when extra support is needed.  These tools allowed the teen to no longer have the label as having “discipline” issues, which helped strengthen both the teen’s emotional and academic worlds

This is only one example of how the MHSA positively impacts the lives of potentially thousands of Californians every day. 

There are currently 9 introduced bills and multiple budget hearings on the topic on the MHSA. They range from a spot bill (a legislative place holder used that will be replaced with a larger policy idea later) to ways to address the Mental Health needs of older adults and services for students.

Below is a list of the existing bills:

1.      AB 43 (Gloria) – Spot Bill

2.      AB 306 (Ramos) – Spot Bill

3.      AB 563 (Quirk Silva) – Spot Bill

4.      AB 480 (Salas) Mental health: older adults. This bill will establish within the State Department of Health Care Services an Older Adult Mental Health Services Administrator to oversee mental health services for older adults. It requires that the position be funded with administrative funds from the Mental Health Services Fund. The bill also intends to increase service integration for older adults receiving mental health.

5.      AB 713 (Mullin) Early Psychosis Intervention Plus (EPI Plus). This bill would delete the requirement that at least half of the funds allocated to the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) for the Early Psychosis and Mood Disorder Intervention Grant Program come from nonstate funds.

6.     AB 1443 (Maienschein) Mental health: technical assistance centers. This bill would require the MHSOAC to establish technical assistance centers to support counties in addressing mental health issues that are of statewide concern and establish issues that are statewide concern, with stakeholder input.

7.      SB 582 (Beall) Youth mental health and substance use disorder services. This bill would require the MHSOAC, after July 2021, make at least half of all SB 82 children and youth grants to be allocated to local educational agencies and mental health partnerships. The MHSOAC in consultation with the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall establish criteria for the allocation of funds. A sum of $15 million is appropriated annually each fiscal year from the General Fund to MHSOAC for this purpose.

8.      SB 604 (Bates) MHSA: centers of excellence. This bill will require the MHSOAC, by January 1, 2021, to establish centers of excellence to provide the counties with technical assistance to implement best practices related to elements of the Mental Health Services Act. The bill would require those centers of excellence to be funded with MHSA state administrative funds.

9.      SB 539 (Caballero) Mental Health Services Act: workforce education and training funds. This bill would create a Work Force, Education and Training (WET) trust fund funded by MHSA growth and voluntary County transfers. This Trust would be dedicated to funding the workforce efforts outlined in the Five-Year Plan, such as funding for loan repayment programs/stipends for behavioral health clinicians, increasing capacity at universities to train and supervise behavioral health professionals, and regional partnerships where counties can pursue specific strategies to address their communities’ needs.

CBHDA will be updating you on these important pieces of legislation and budget hearings, however, if you have any questions please contact me at  #MHSAWorks #HereForYou


The Mental Health Services Act was a landmark piece of legislation that levied a 1 percent income tax on personal income in excess of $1 million.  It provides vital funding for Community Services, Prevention and Early Intervention, Innovative County Programs, Capital Facilities and Technology Programs and Workforce Education and Training. 

Robb Layne

Director of Communications and External Affairs

Robb LayneCBHDA