The Daily Californian Online

Mental Health Division prepares to use unspent state money

By Sarah Mohamed
Daily Cal Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Category: News > City > City Government

Berkeley's Mental Health Division is currently preparing to utilize over $2.7 million of unspent state money in anticipation of future major state funding reductions.

As part of the state approval process for this funding allocation, the city held a 30-day public review period - which culminated in a public hearing at the Mental Health Commission meeting Thursday night - to solicit feedback on the draft proposal.

Mental Health Services Act funds - which the division receives annually from the state for dispersal within a specified number of years - stand to decrease by 10 percent in fiscal year 2012. However, given the division's careful savings dating back to fiscal year 2009, this should not significantly impact service provision, according to Beth Meyerson, director of the city's Department of Health Services.

The division hopes to pull down $2,776,335 of its funding allocations for programs within the act's Community Services and Supports, Capital Facilities and Technological Needs and Prevention and Early Intervention components.

This funding, once approved by the state, will be used to reinforce existing programs such as the Children's Intensive Support Services program - which will receive more than double its current funding of $143,675 in an effort to increase service capacity - and to implement new programs to support adults suffering from mental health conditions and reach out to at-risk youth who previously have not had access to the city's mental health services.

Plans also include an $816,050 allocation to renovate the city's adult services clinic and a $616,050 allocation to implement an electronic records system within the division.

During the public hearing, commissioners asked why the division was only now applying to use its older funds, in light of a fear that these would not be made accessible by a state legislature that is working to cut costs.

Until recently, the division was not sure that the money would be guaranteed by the state, Meyerson said. She added that the division has experienced a "lull" in pursuing such proposals while undergoing a financial and organizational restructuring process that began in December.

As part of the public review period, the city solicited feedback on the new programs from the community - which will be reviewed and incorporated into the division's more detailed plans once the state approves the proposals, according to Karen Klatt, the city's Mental Health Services Act coordinator.

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