Should Housing, Mental Health and Substance Use Services Be a Right in California?

The Steinberg Institute and its founder, Darrell Steinberg, has invited CSAP to participate in a conversation about what it would take in California to make mental health and substance use services an entitlement for all those who need care.

The Steinberg Institute states, “Over the course of the previous eight legislative sessions here in California we have been honored to work with several of you on some of our most ambitious efforts.  As we continue to seek solutions to an ever growing crisis, we would like to spend uninterrupted time with you to hear your thoughts as we begin crafting legislation to establish such a right to mental health and substance use care for all Californians.

We believe that establishing a legally enforceable right to care will fundamentally shift the state’s approach to mental health by compelling  proactive effort to ensure access to a comprehensive set of services and supports. We propose establishing a mandatory minimum set of services accessible to all regardless of insurance type or place of residence that the state would be responsible for guaranteeing, accompanied by a legal remedy to hold the state accountable.

In an article published in Cal Matters on homelessness in August of this year, our founder put a fine point on the need to define the obligations of our city, county, and state governments to ensure needed services are provided.

“Despite successes along the way, unprecedented resources from Gov. Newsom and the Legislature, and heroic providers who have helped thousands navigate their way out of homelessness, the fundamental problem remains the same. The law describes no timetables, production requirements or even individualized obligations to help. There is no requirement for cities and counties — very different systems with different historic roles and responsibilities — to work together to solve the problem.”

Some of the key questions we’d like to talk with you about include:

  • What should the minimum set of services be as part of a right to care?  Are there models we can look to as we establish what this standard set of services should include?
  • For Medicaid services, do you see any gaps or implementation challenges in CalAIM that could be addressed through legislation to support a right to care?
  • What barriers do you experience in trying to deliver services to people who need care in California?”

Will funding be on the table in this discussion? CSAP’s advocates at SYASL have already inquired and the response has been yes it can. 2023 is already shaping up to be another lively year for mental health and substance use legislation in California.