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Mental Health System Crisis

The steady deterioration of the local mental health system is seen everywhere in California but it is particularly stunning in the context of Los Angeles.

Of the 8 million residents of Los Angeles County, 1.2 million are in need of mental health care. Of the 1.2 million who are in need of mental health care, almost half suffer from major mental disorders.

The most chilling aspect of these dire statistics is the utilization in comparison to the need. The county’s mental health system is only able to assist 90,000 people in a group whose numbers exceed 1 million.

For those people who do receive some form of attention much of it is substandard.

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The recent proposal from Los Angeles County to close several outpatient clinics and scale back services in most remaining clinics has dramatically illustrated the public emergency that exists in our mental health treatment system. If this new proposal to scale back what is already a horrendously inadequate system is approved, 20,000 more people will have to go without needed treatment.

The simple fact is that the chronically mentally ill do not disappear when needed services are not available to them. They just get worse.

The fundamental problem is our funding crisis which must be faced by all levels of government. Counties as well as the state must do everything within their power to minimize the damage of fiscal constraints on their population.

The governor’s budget will soon deliver the coup de grace to Los Angeles’ already ailing mental health system by cutting 40% of existing local mental health funding. The only way the Legislature can stop this imminent threat to the county’s funding is to rob Peter to pay Paul by eliminating family planning, cost-of-living increases for poor children, the aged, and the disabled in addition to decreasing funding for county public health.

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We are in governmental gridlock: We do not have the funds to maintain current services, and if funds were to materialize miraculously, the Gann limit would prevent us from using them.

We are out of money and out of alternatives. The changes in our tax and expenditure system have left us no room in which to maneuver. As your articles have shown, a business as usual attitude means clear and apparent disaster for the meager mental health services currently being provided by an overburdened system.

BRUCE BRONZAN

Chair, Assembly Health Committee

D-Fresno


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