by: Angela Connell
As we head into another election cycle, California will be watching a plethora of measures on the ballot. For Human Works Foundation, our eyes are on PROP 27: the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act.
During our over 6-year engagement with our community, we have worked closely with folks coming out of our carceral system, as well as Veterans: each population has been significantly affected by lack of access to sustainable mental health and housing solutions during their transition back into society.
California’s homelessness and mental health crisis is dire: nearly half of all unsheltered people in the country live in California, and data shows that more than 250,000 families within our public school system are experiencing homelessness (NIMH, 2019). Within this population, there is a group of formerly incarcerated folks that have endured a system of disproportionate arrests: according to the Prison Policy Initiative, 43% of people in state prisons have been diagnosed with some form of mental health disorder, 66% of people within the federal system are self-reporting to not receiving adequate mental health care while incarcerated, and over 27% of California residents jailed 3 times or more reported having a moderate or serious mental illness.
As of 2019, 10.3 million people are admitted to U.S. jails per year, and California is at about 368,000 per year of that population. Quick math: that is a California incarceration rate of 549 per 100,000 people, meaning that California locks up a higher percentage of its people than almost any other place in the world.
As we know, there are lasting effects to chronic homelessness and incarceration: when the two are conflated, we are left with a large subset of our California population who are suffering from deep inequities in our access to sustainable treatment, health care, and housing. The relationship between community public health, behavioral health service accessibility, and mass incarceration are inextricably linked. Interestingly, community behavioral health and the criminal legal system are treated separately, which creates a competing demand to confront mass incarceration and expand the limited services. This demand shines a glaring light on the capacity of mental health providers, the system, and policy makers to implement solutions: rather than address inability to pay, lack of stable housing, or other sociostructural factors that affect the likelihood of incarceration, we have effectively thrown generations of folks suffering from mental health crisis behind bars. Mental health disorders are among one of the most common health conditions faced by nearly 1 in 6 Californians. With no adequate permanent funding stream, every level of government in the State has disinvested in mental health services- leaving those in need without help.
With any proposition or ballot measure, there are issues; however, the issue of lack of policy for the unsheltered population has endured for decades. Proposition 27 proposes to use taxing and regulating funds from online sports betting to fund this Act. Plainly, this measure requires that 15% of all tax revenue from online sports betting go to the disadvantaged. That 85% of revenue per year could go directly to sustainable solutions to homelessness, mental health, and ironically, gaming addiction!
Let’s unpack the policy:
· Unregulated/untaxed online sports betting is already happening in California!
· Billions of dollars are bet online, annually- where is that money going?
· Legal, regulated betting allows folks to participate in SAFE betting, generating that billions in revenue to help fight homelessness and expand mental health support in California!
For more information on this necessary step to equity in unsheltered policy, please visit: https://yestoprop27.com/