Your guide to Proposition 1: Newsom’s overhaul of California’s mental health system

Gov. Gavin Newsom standing in front of a podium that has a blue sign that reads "Yes on 1"
Gov. Gavin Newsom kicked off his campaign for Proposition 1 at Los Angeles General Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Proposition 1 is the linchpin to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s solution to California’s homelessness and mental health crisis.

The measure asks voters to approve major changes to the state’s 20-year-old Mental Health Services Act to better serve Californians with substance use disorders. A “yes” vote on the measure would also approve a $6.4-billion bond to build facilities to provide 10,000 new treatment beds.

State lawmakers passed the plan last year to place the measure on the March 5 primary ballot. The rare bipartisan support at the Capitol speaks to reality that the problem stretches to every corner of California.


About 181,000 people statewide, including 75,000 in Los Angeles County, are homeless, according to 2023 counts. As much as 82% of unhoused individuals have experienced a serious mental health condition, and nearly two-thirds have at some point regularly used illicit drugs, according to a recent survey by UC San Francisco.


What will the measure do?

The governor’s plan, unveiled last March, seeks to reform California’s 20-year-old Mental Health Services Act.

Approved by voters in 2004, the act established a 1% tax on personal income above $1 million per year to expand California’s behavioral health system to improve care and support for people with serious mental health issues. The money went directly to counties to spend on mental health programs.

Proposition 1 asks voters to reconfigure the mental health law and set aside 30% of the tax, or about $1 billion a year, for supportive housing for those with serious mental health illnesses or substance use disorders.

The measure includes a bond to generate at least $6.4 billion in one-time funding, which was increased recently from $4.68 billion, largely to build 10,000 new behavioral health beds under a streamlined environmental permitting process.


Who are the proponents?

Newsom crafted the measure last year and asked lawmakers to place it on the March ballot.

He contends that the changes under Proposition 1 will help get the most vulnerable Californians out of encampments and into care. The governor argues that the state must modernize the Mental Health Services Act to better meet the needs of today and to serve Californians with substance use disorders.

California’s U.S. Senate contest is among the most competitive and expensive in the nation. Voters will also weigh in on legislative and local contests and a multi-billion-dollar ballot measure.

Feb. 1, 2024

The proposal builds on his ongoing effort to increase access to behavioral health services and build more supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness, which remains an entrenched problem for California and the Democratic governor despite billions spent by the state to address the issue.


Who opposes Proposition 1?

A coalition that includes state Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee), Assemblymember Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach), the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. and several mental health advocacy groups oppose Newsom’s plan, arguing that it’s too costly and will reduce local funding for existing mental health services.

Provisions of the measure, which allow the funding to be used for secure mental health facilities, also roiled civil rights groups as the plan moved through the state Legislature.


Related coverage

California’s homelessness and mental health crisis is so dire that Republicans and Democrats are leaving their ideological corners and stepping into an unfamiliar middle ground to try to solve the problem.

Jan. 31, 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom urged support of Proposition 1, an overhaul of California’s mental health system that will be on the ballot in the March 5 primary.

Jan. 3, 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for sweeping mental health reforms to generate billions for behavioral health facilities throughout California.

March 19, 2023

California lawmakers approved Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mental health plan. The overhaul is his latest effort to lessen the homelessness crisis, a vexing problem for the state and its Democratic governor.

Sept. 11, 2023

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