September 02, 2011 - A week ago, DJ Jaffe and Mary Ann Bernard published a very strongly worded Op-ed in Capitol Weekly titled "In California’s system of care for the mentally ill, leadership is lacking." The article was picked up by the Huffington Post and began with the alarming line, "California is killing people with mental illness. Not for lack of money, but for lack of leadership." Mr. Jaffee is the founder of Mental Illness Policy Org, and a full-voiced advocate for Seriously Mentally Ill citizens.
While the language was intense and the anecdotes potentially inflammatory, the basic point of the piece was relatively reserved. Mr. Jaffee argues that California should reorient the Mental Health Services Act away from Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) to backstop and reinforce crisis services. "Laws and regulations should be put in place to insure services that help the severely ill like Laura’s Law, crisis beds, and outreach services go to the front of the funding line, rather than the back." In this piece and others, Mr. Jaffee has repeatedly singled out Los Angeles County for particular scorn.
In a much less sensationalistic rebuttal, Marvin Southard, director of Los Angeles County's Department of Mental Health defends PEI programming, especially that overseen by his department. He states, simply, "The authors are flat-out wrong when they say the MHSA hasn’t helped those with severe mental illness" and proceeds to detail some very positive results of LA County's Full Service Partnerships, including that participants have seen a "68% reduction in days spent homeless, a 53% increase in days living independently, a 46% reduction in days incarcerated, and a 23% decrease in days psychiatrically hospitalized."
Dr. Southard concludes by reminding us that California's ongoing budget crisis is the real driver of the debate on how the state should allocate limited resources to treat illness of all kinds.
- About FYA
- Who We Are
- What We Do
- Foster Care Issues and Policy
- Issues We Follow
- Policy We Track
- Get Involved
- For Youth