City Turns to Public for Feedback on Mental Health Services Expansion

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The city of Berkeley's Mental Health Division is turning to the public for feedback on a roughly $6.58 million proposal to transform and expand mental health services in Berkeley and Albany.

The city's 2010-11 Annual Update for the Mental Health Services Act recommends allocating state funds for three of five outlined components in the act, which was passed by California voters in 2004. While annual funds from the act have decreased in recent years, the division is choosing to utilize the remainder of its 2009-10 state-allocated funds in addition to this year's funds - all of which must be dispersed within a state-specified timeline.

In the proposal, the division is requesting nearly $3.4 million for Community Services and Support, about $1.76 million for Prevention and Early Intervention and approximately $1.4 million for Capital Facilities and Technological Needs.

The Mental Health Services Act provides funds for mental health programs - usually run at the county level - through a 1 percent tax on every dollar of personal income over $1 million. These funds are collected in a state treasury and then distributed to mental health jurisdictions based on population, according to Berkeley Mental Health Services Act Coordinator Karen Klatt.

A public comment period began on March 23 and will continue until April 20 for community members and stakeholders to comment on the city's proposal, culminating in a public hearing on April 21.

"The MHSA update will allow us to access funds ... which will help us bridge the anticipated funding shortfall in the next two years," Klatt said.

The city's Department of Health Services currently faces a budget deficit, and while funds from the Mental Health Services Act cannot be used to supplant existing programs that have lost funding, they will help to continue to provide mental health services to the community, according to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross.

Hugo Lucero, cultural competence and ethnic services coordinator for the city of Berkeley, said Mental Health Services Act funds provide previously unavailable access to support groups and community education, specifically, for Latino, Asian Pacific-Islander and African American populations in Berkeley and Albany.

"(With) the MHSA funding, we can pay for health care and facilitators - for outreach to those communities," he said.

Community Services and Support programs provide unserved populations with mental health services. If the state approves the funding requests, the city will provide health services for severely mentally ill youth and adults, as well as for family advocacy and wellness and recovery programs, according to Klatt.

The category of Prevention and Early Intervention funds programs aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and provide preventative services to avoid mental health crises. Klatt said these funds will be used to offer mental health screening for newborns and children up to age 5 and to provide early access to community resources, as well as programs for behavioral support in schools and trauma support services.

The Capital Facilities and Technological Needs component funds will provide repairs and renovations to the Berkeley Mental Health Clinic, as well as technological advancements to make electronic health records available online to clients within the next two to three years.


Contact Kelsey Clark at [email protected]

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