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Proposition 1 Breakdown: What It Means for California’s Mental Health Care Future

Amber Vaughan, MA in Counseling and Human Services, is a distinguished addiction treatment professional and currently serves as the Director of Admissions at Asana Recovery.
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Proposition 1 Breakdown: What It Means for California’s Mental Health Care Future

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Proposition 1 is a legislative initiative confronting California’s challenges in homelessness, mental health, and addiction. If passed, this proposition will influence funding and services across the state. Our article unpacks everything you need to know about Proposition 1, framing its intent and dissecting its impact without delving too deep into the numbers—just yet.

Key Takeaways

  • Proposition 1 is a proposed amendment in California aiming to issue $6.4 billion in bonds to enhance behavioral health services, address homelessness, and fund the construction of housing and treatment facilities.
  • The financial implications of Proposition 1 include an estimated $9.3 billion repayment over 30 years, potentially limiting funds for other public services and impacting the state’s budget flexibility.
  • While Proposition 1 has strong support for its potential to modernize and improve mental health care services, critics are concerned about the sustainability, reallocation of funds from county services, and the impact on underserved communities.

Decoding Proposition 1: A Comprehensive Overview

Proposition 1, at its core, is a proposed amendment to the existing Mental Health Services Act. Its goal is to enhance behavioral health services to combat the pressing issues of homelessness, mental health, and addiction in California. Recognizing the interconnection of these challenges, the Proposition offers a holistic solution.

Yet, to fully comprehend Proposition 1, we must look beyond its cover and examine the ballot measure text. This reveals a detailed financial plan involving a $6.38 billion general obligation bond, which is intended for the construction of housing and treatment facilities.

The Birth of Proposition 1

Tracing the origins of Proposition 1, we find two key players: Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman. These forward-thinking leaders played a crucial role in bringing the initiative to the public eye, marking it as a critical step in the state’s journey towards better mental health care.

The birth of Proposition 1 owes to the coming together of two legislative bills: Assembly Bill 531 and Senate Bill 326. Governor Newsom signed both these bills into law in October 2023, thereby setting the stage for Proposition 1’s appearance on the March 5, 2024 ballot.

The Financial Blueprint of Proposition 1

Proposition 1 authorizes the state to issue bonds worth $6.4 billion. These funds are specifically allocated for the development of mental health care facilities, treatment centers for substance abuse, and housing for individuals facing these challenges.

However, this investment comes with a hefty price tag. The bond issuance will result in an estimated repayment amount of approximately $9.3 billion over 30 years, which includes interest. This translates to roughly $310 million per year from the General Fund.

If you are suffering from mental health or substance abuse; call us, we can help.

Proposition 1’s Impact on Behavioral Health Services

Proposition 1 rebrands the Mental Health Services Act as the Behavioral Health Services Act, reflecting a modernized approach towards mental health care in Mental Health America. The Act’s scope is widened to encompass treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, thereby expanding the gamut of services fundable under the Act, including the behavioral health services program.

This expansion of services, including the addition of mental health treatment beds, is expected to increase accessibility to behavioral health services for tens of thousands of Californians each year, especially those struggling with severe mental health needs. Moreover, it requires counties to rethink their strategies, putting more emphasis on housing and personalized support as part of their mental health care and substance treatment strategies in mental health treatment facilities.

Shifting Priorities Under Proposition 1

Implementing the changes proposed by Proposition 1 necessitates counties to direct a larger proportion of Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) funding towards:

  • Housing interventions
  • Employment assistance
  • Education
  • Full-service partnership programs

However, this redirection of MHSA funding may have unintended consequences. With more funds allocated to housing interventions and personalized support, counties may have fewer financial resources available for other mental health services, potentially necessitating alternative financing to sustain existing service levels.

Housing First: Proposition 1’s Strategy for Homelessness

Proposition 1 presents an ambitious blueprint for addressing homelessness in California, including a critical focus on resolving the skid row dilemma. It proposes a comprehensive framework that includes the creation of permanent supportive housing and personalized support services for individuals with diagnosed mental illness.

This approach is projected to result in the creation of over 11,000 supportive housing units, catering specifically to Californians with severe mental health needs. However, these measures are not without controversy, with some expressing concerns about the potential negative implications of Proposition 1’s housing approach.

Serving Those Who Served: Veterans’ Support

Proposition 1 acknowledges the unique struggles of our veterans, offering them targeted support. It aims to help homeless veterans by offering permanent supportive housing and expanding access to mental health and addiction services.

The California Association of Veteran Service Agencies has endorsed Proposition 1, highlighting the benefits it offers to veteran services. More than half of the up to 4,350 housing units built under Proposition 1 will be reserved specifically for veterans, potentially providing housing to over 20% of California’s veterans experiencing homelessness.

The Debate Surrounding Proposition 1

While Proposition 1 has been praised for its innovative approach to mental health care, it has also faced its fair share of criticism. The most common point of contention among critics is the high cost of the initiative. With a projected price tag of over $10 billion and an annual repayment obligation of approximately $310 million over 30 years, Proposition 1 represents a significant financial commitment for the state.

Critics also express concerns about the sustainability of operating costs for facilities established under Proposition 1, doubting whether the allocated funds will be sufficient and managed efficiently. Some fear that the restructuring of funding may decrease resource availability for core mental health services, affecting services currently benefiting Californians of color and LGBTQ+ communities.

Advocates for Change: Supporter Perspectives

Despite these criticisms, Proposition 1 enjoys robust support from various quarters. Advocates argue that it represents a crucial step in fixing the state’s faltering mental health care system, which has suffered since the closure of mental health hospitals in the 1960s and 1970s. By addressing the shortcomings of the current mental health system, Proposition 1 aims to improve mental health care for those in need and pave the way for a modernized mental health system.

Supporters of Proposition 1 also highlight its potential to greatly expand community-based mental health and addiction services, reaching tens of thousands more Californians each year. They point to the rigorous accountability measures included in the proposition as evidence of its sound financial planning.

Voices of Caution: Opposition Stance

On the other hand, opponents of Proposition 1 voice concerns about the potential impact on existing mental health services. They argue that the proposition would divert crucial funds from county-level mental health services, thus reducing the availability of these services at the local level.

Opposition to Proposition 1 also stems from fears about the potential impact on marginalized communities. Critics argue that the redirection of funds could lead to less funding for core services in historically underserved communities, impacting people of color and LGBTQ+ communities.

If you are suffering from mental health or substance abuse; call us, we can help.

The Ripple Effect on Public Health and Economy

The implications of Proposition 1 extend beyond the realm of mental health. Its bond repayment and reallocation of funds may also impact public health outcomes and the state’s economic outlook. In the context of California’s current projected budget shortfall of $73 billion, the financial commitment of Proposition 1 will need to be carefully considered.

To ensure accountability, the California State Auditor is mandated to issue a report on the implementation of the Behavioral Health Services Act by December 31, 2029, and every three years until 2035. These audits could influence the effectiveness and efficiency of funds utilization, thereby impacting public health outcomes and the economic aspects of Proposition 1.

Long-term Economic Outlook

The long-term economic implications of Proposition 1 pose a significant concern. It necessitates the reallocation of roughly $140 million annually from county tax revenue to the state, adding state bond repayment costs of $310 million annually for 30 years.

Moreover, the repayment of bond debt will:

  • Limit the flexibility of funds in the General Fund
  • Potentially impact other vital public services
  • Potentially impact the state’s ability to fund future voter-approved bonds.

Long-term financial sustainability is challenged by the potential inadequacy of designated funds to support the ongoing operational costs of new mental health facilities and services.

Navigating the Proposition 1 Vote

As Californians gear up to vote on Proposition 1, comprehending the voting process is essential. The Official Voter Information Guide, provided by the state, contains information on the implications of each vote. Additionally, voters can exercise their right to vote early in person either at their county elections office or at designated early voting locations.

For last-minute registration needs, California offers Same Day Voter Registration at county election offices and polling locations on Election Day.


In conclusion, Proposition 1 represents a bold step toward addressing California’s mental health crisis. It promises to overhaul the state’s mental health care system, expand services, and provide targeted support for homeless veterans. However, it also poses significant financial implications, with potential impacts on public health outcomes and the state’s economic outlook. As Californians prepare to vote on this crucial measure, it’s important to consider all these factors to make an informed decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Proposition 1?

Proposition 1 is a measure in California that aims to expand behavioral health services to address homelessness, mental health, and addiction. It seeks to amend the Mental Health Services Act for this purpose.

How does Proposition 1 plan to tackle homelessness?

Proposition 1 aims to address homelessness by providing permanent supportive housing and personalized support services for individuals with diagnosed mental illness, as part of a comprehensive framework. These initiatives aim to reduce homelessness by addressing the specific needs of this population.

What are the financial implications of Proposition 1?

The passage of Proposition 1 would lead to the state issuing $6.4 billion in bonds, with an estimated repayment amount of around $9.3 billion over 30 years, including interest. This would have significant financial implications for the state.

How does Proposition 1 impact existing mental health services?

Proposition 1 will require counties to allocate more MHSA funding to specific programs, which could lead to reduced financial resources for existing mental health services, such as counseling and therapy. This may impact the availability and quality of these services.

What are the long-term economic implications of Proposition 1?

Proposition 1 could have long-term economic implications as it involves reallocating $140 million annually from county tax revenue to the state, potentially impacting other public services and the state’s ability to fund future voter-approved bonds.


Dahl, Bj et al. 2024. California Proposition 1 results and what the 2024 ballot measure would do if approved. (n.d.).

Amber Vaughan, MA in Counseling and Human Services, is a distinguished addiction treatment professional and currently serves as the Director of Admissions at Asana Recovery.
LinkedIn | More Info about Amber

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