Mental Health Reforms

We thank Bill Boyarsky for his clear synopsis of the mental health tug of war that, with passage of the Bronzan bill (AB 1351), will finally settle the responsibility for mental health care ("New Hope for Better Mental Health Care," Metro, June 12).

Each year at budget time, mental health has been a political football between the state and the county, each blaming the other for defaulting on responsibility to people with mental illnesses. And each year the stress on people with illnesses such as schizophrenia and serious depression, has grown as they've watched to see if their clinic was on the cut list and it would be their turn to live on the streets.

This year mental health is about to score a touchdown in a game its constituency has become more skilled at over the years. The California Coalition for Mental Health (CCMH), the statewide advocacy group, has grown in visibility and power. In 1989 it assembled the largest rally ever to be held in Sacramento on behalf of a special interest group.

CCMH volunteers gathered 130,000 signatures to put Proposition 134, an alcohol tax initiate that would have guaranteed substantial funding for mental health and other human services, on the ballot in 1990. Although the measure was defeated due to voter revolt, the group returned to Sacramento in May by the thousands in support of Gov. Pete Wilson's proposal to realign responsibility from the state to the counties. CCMH leaders kept the pressure on throughout the realignment planning to guarantee that sufficient resources would follow and true system reform would be attained.

Mental illness researchers are proclaiming this "the Decade of the Brain." CCMH is proclaiming 1991 the year of mental health reform in California. After years of abuse, it seems that the rights of people with treatable brain diseases may yet be recognized.

RICHARD VAN HORN, Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Assn. in Los Angeles County

ANDREW RUBIN, Chair-Elect, National Mental Health Assn.

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