Voters approve Proposition 1, Newsom’s overhaul of the California mental health system

April 24, 2024

Los Angeles Times 

By Taryn Luna

March 20, 2024

The close contest over Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $6.4-billion bond measure to transform California’s mental health system finally ended Wednesday, more than two weeks after the primary election.

Though election officials have until April 12 to officially certify the results, Proposition 1 led with 50.2% of the vote when the race was called with more than 7.5 million ballots counted statewide.

“This is the biggest change in decades in how California tackles homelessness, and a victory for doing things radically different,” Newsom said. “Now, counties and local officials must match the ambition of California voters. This historic reform will only succeed if we all kick into action immediately — state government and local leaders, together.”

The Associated Press called the passage of Proposition 1 on Wednesday.

Proposition 1 approves the issuance of a new $6.4-billion bond to support 10,000 treatment and housing beds and reconfigures a 20-year-old tax for mental health services to also fund treatment for drug addiction.

The plan is essential to Newsom’s strategy to address California’s homelessness crisis, an approach that departs from the liberal model of voluntary treatment to a more moderate stance of compelling people with severe mental illness and substance disorders into care.

The bond measure is an important piece of his policy because it provides funding for beds that counties said was essential to accomplishing his goals. But the measure also faced criticism from civil rights groups on the left, who were concerned about the repercussions of funding secure mental health facilities, and his GOP opponents on the right, who scoffed at the estimated $14-billion price tag amid a massive state budget deficit.

Despite millions spent by the yes campaign, pollsters say Proposition 1 barely squeezed through because of lower-than-expected voter turnout that inflated the Republican share of the electorate. Election returns showed that inland counties and parts of Southern California opposed the measure, while a majority of voters in Los Angeles and the Bay Area backed the plan.

Newsom’s campaign made a strategic decision to place the measure on the March ballot because it believed it could withstand a more conservative electorate. Holding off until the general election in November, when more Democrats are expected to vote, could have boosted the measure’s chances of success, but also would have left Proposition 1 competing with other bonds for voter support.

The Californians Against Proposition 1 campaign said the measure wasn’t a “huge” win for Newsom, but “an embarrassing squeaker of a victory.”

“By cutting off services and reducing early intervention programs, Prop. 1 could have the perverse effect of increasing the number of people homeless and in need of services,” the campaign said in a statement.


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