California’s public mental health system is a lifeline for children, youth, and adults who currently need – or one day will require – treatment for a mental health condition. However, this system is enormously complex. While many Californians with mental health needs manage to navigate this complex system, others fall through the cracks. Fortunately, efforts are underway at the state level to improve California’s behavioral health system.
Accessing health care, food assistance, transportation, and helping Californians pay for other basic necessities as they build job skills and find stable work — this is the role of health and human services. The Budget Center analyzes spending and related policies on health and human services, highlighting areas where greater public investment is critical as well as ways to boost access to connect people to these essential supports.
Prisons and jails have been turned into “America’s…new mental hospitals,” even though it is clear that correctional facilities are highly inappropriate places to house and treat people with mental illness. In this fact sheet learn why California must continue to improve health care for people who are incarcerated and why reforms are also needed to address the connections between mental health and the criminal justice system so that Californians who need mental health treatment receive the appropriate care in a timely manner rather than being confined in state prisons or county jails.
As California works to improve access to behavioral health services (mental health and substance use), policymakers should keep in mind the various socioeconomic factors that can contribute to the development of mental health conditions for children, youth, and adults. Research suggests that low levels of household income and mental health conditions are related. In addition, experiencing racism and discrimination negatively impacts mental health for multiple racial/ethnic groups, especially for children and adolescents. Left unaddressed, chronic stress due to experiencing poverty and/or racism can affect a child’s development and can lead to behavioral problems.
California was the first state to broadly promote family and community well-being by providing paid time off for working people to care for an ill family member or for a child who is new to the family. Implemented in 2004, California’s paid family leave program built on the state’s longstanding disability insurance program, which allows parents to take paid time off before and after childbirth.
California has been a national leader in helping people receive the health coverage they need since the enactment of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. Until 2016, the share of Californians without health coverage dropped substantially. But this decline slowed significantly before finally stalling out in 2018, leaving close to 3 million Californians uninsured.