"American Riviera" to See Increase in Homelessness
Santa Barbara, CA (PRWEB) April 16, 2008 -- Known by many as the American Riviera and made famous by many celebrity residents, (including Oprah and soon-to-be resident, Calif. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger), the ocean-side community of Santa Barbara County could soon be facing a drastic increase in homelessness if proposed budget cuts by the Department of Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health Services (ADMHS) are approved by the Board of Supervisors on April 22.
The budget cuts include a 60%, $6 million cut to community-based programs that provide safety-net services to the mentally ill, as well as a $2.7 million cut to County operated mental health clinics, ensuring that many people who need services in the future will be denied access to care.
"This is not the way we do things in Santa Barbara," said Annmarie Cameron, Executive Director at the Mental Health Association.
"The draconian budget cuts proposed by the ADMHS management put a final strain on a safety net that is already frayed. We should all be afraid of the consequences."
By its own report, ADMHS acknowledges that among the devastating consequences of this proposal, a significant number of people who are now housed and treated will soon become homeless when lifelines are terminated.
Santa Barbara County is in the top third wealthiest California counties based on per capita income, yet only invests at the 2 percent level in its mental health system. The average for California counties is six percent. In June 2004, the median home price in Santa Barbara surpassed $1,000,000. Traditionally the area has had a significant homeless population, due in part to the high cost of living
Last year, 22 homeless people died on the streets of the south coast. Tragically, many, if not most, of those people were mentally ill. If the proposed mental health service cuts go into effect July 1st, this number will likely grow exponentially.
The proposed cuts would purge more than 800 people from the ADMHS caseload, removing the lifelines that support recovery and permanent supportive housing with many of these people becoming homeless.
Referring to a recent County-sponsored effort to re-design the mental health system, Barry Schoer, Executive Director of Sanctuary Psychiatric Centers, said "the process of saving community-based mental health services for the mentally ill has been plagued with divisiveness and a blinding focus on budget instead of people."
Not only do local leaders expect an unacceptable increase in the level of homelessness and street deaths among the mentally ill, but the cost of providing emergency medical treatment or inpatient care is up to nine times more expensive than providing permanent supportive housing.
ALL4CMH (Association of Local Leaders for Community Mental Health) requested a special hearing before the Board of Supervisors separate from the April 22nd regular agenda, at a time when everyone in the community is free to attend and demand care and justice for the mentally ill. A response from the County is pending.
Prior to the April 22 hearing, ALL4CMH is hosting a community Mental Health Rally on April 18, 2008 2- 4 p.m. at Alameda Park in downtown Santa Barbara (corner of Micheltorena and Anacapa). The rally will focus on how to save mental health services, and will include guest speakers, music and refreshments.
Meanwhile, details on the impact of the proposed budget cuts, and the ongoing struggle to improve the plight of the mentally ill through better management and a much-needed redesign of the system can be found at the campaign's new website: www.SaveMentalHealth.org
Association of Local Leaders for Community Mental Health, or ALL 4 CMH is a coalition formed by local leaders of nonprofit mental health and housing agencies on February 6, 2008 to promote improved delivery and increased efficiency of mental health services and housing supports in Santa Barbara County.
ALL 4 CMH members represent more than 200 years of leadership in local nonprofit agencies with expertise in fund development and high-quality mental health services. Please visit SaveMentalHealth.org for more information.