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Community Commentary:

Prop. 1E doesn’t do enough

May 18, 2009|By Janie Strasner and Steven Hochstadt

Confused about all these propositions on the May ballot? So are we. We’re two psychologists with a collective 43 years of schooling and 37 years of professional experience. And we can’t figure out how to vote on Proposition 1E. And don’t think that going to the Internet is going to help either. Because we went to more than a dozen websites, and read the actual text of the proposition from the California Voter Information website. We’re relatively smart people. Can’t understand what they’re saying and who’s telling the truth!

We run two community mental health programs in Glendale that serve some of the most traumatized, needy and vulnerable children in our community. And everything we’ve read led us to believe that either outcome of the election could be potentially disastrous for our programs and the hundreds of children we serve.

Darrell Steinberg, author of the original Proposition 63, also known as the Mental Health Services Act, supports the passage of Proposition 1E. Supposedly Steinberg was told during budget negotiations that he had to give up something, that everyone was going to have to sacrifice, and although he acquiesced — albeit kicking and screaming — he ultimately had to put something on the table. So that’s Proposition 1E. Apparently he was looking at the amount of taxes collected thus far and not spent, $450 million, and felt that allocating those monies from the unspent reserves was better than cutting other mental health services dollars.

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Our trade associations and professional organizations are recommending that we vote no on Proposition 1E because a vote in favor will take nearly a half-billion dollars generated by voter-supported Proposition 63 and put it toward California’s general fund with no accountability of how that money gets spent. If it passes, it purports to transfer funds for two years from the Mental Health Services Act to provide services via an already established program for indigent children and young adults.

But is there a guarantee that the money will be spent on mental health services for children, or can it be used to bridge other funding gaps? And if that’s the case, what will it mean for mental health services at a time when more and more people are desperately in need because of severe economic pressures? And what about the federal matching funds that may be lost as a result of diverting mental health funding?

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