A crowd gathered at the Santa Barbara Courthouse Sunken Garden at noon on Thursday, April 23, to protest 1D and 1E – measures in the upcoming May 19 election that propose diverting funds in California from Mental Health Services. Roger Thompson from the Consumer Advocacy Coalition (CAC) organized the press conference, which enjoyed support from Santa Barbara politicians.
“We’re doing this to preserve past votes,” said Thompson, who claimed 1D and 1E are poised to take money from Mental Health Services that was guaranteed by Proposition 63, which passed in 2004. The CAC was created by Thompson in 2007 in response to the perceived under-representation of the interests of mentally ill Californians. Since then, CAC has raised more than $17,000 toward the advocacy and support of mental health issues.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal spoke after Thompson. “Why is our crowd not bigger?” he asked of the smallish assembly. “Because these measures set their sights on the most vulnerable.” It was Carbajal’s opinion that the attempt by the state to take money from mental health is based on the idea that those most affected are simply not expected to organize to protest the loss of funding. “The state ought to be ashamed,” he said.
Barry Schoer, executive director of the Psychiatric Center for Santa Barbara, blamed the budget changes on Democrats in the state government who are more interested in taking money from the rich than spending it where it is needed. He reminded that untreated mental illness will result in more money spent on homeless shelters, prisons, and hospitals.
City Councilmember Helene Schneider also spoke, saying that she had seen the positive effects in the city of the funding from Prop. 63. “When programs work,” she said, “we should reward them.”
Measures 1D and 1E are supported by some who believe that the diversions in funding proposed are needed by the economy. The president of the California Children’s Hospital Association believes that these measures “are part of a comprehensive package to prevent even deeper cuts by temporarily redirecting reserve funds to save vital health programs.”
To this end, Schneider addressed the necessity of the current times. “The state is in dire straits,” she said. “Their hands are tied.” She added that the state should not take money from a successful program, saying that the Sacramento was “balancing a massive budget on the backs of children and our mentally ill.”
The money from Proposition 63 that is under threat by 1D and 1E also funds Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender facilities and programs, said David Selberg, executive director of Pacific Pride Foundation. The measures were also denounced by Linda Phillips, president of S.B.’s League of Women Voters, City Councilmember Grant House, and Susan Reardon, executive director of Families Advocating for Compassionate Treatment. Reardon also commented on the small crowd, considering how many people she believes will be affected by the passing of 1D and 1E, asking, “You want to see who is affected? Check the obituaries.”
Thompson said the issue raised by 1D and 1E and their attack on Prop. 63 goes beyond the battle for Mental Health Services. He claimed CAC is simply trying to protect the votes already cast by Californians, and is concerned that the past votes are not being respected by the state. “This sets a dangerous precedent about how we go about business as a democracy.”