California ACLUs Oppose Proposition 1

Prop 1 would reduce already-strapped community-based and culturally responsive mental health services.

LOS ANGELES – The ACLUs across California announced today their official opposition to Proposition 1 in the upcoming March 2024 Primary Election.  

Carmen-Nicole Cox, director of government affairs at ACLU California Action, issued the following statement: 

“Health care and housing are human rights. California’s mental health and housing systems need reform, but the numbers show that Proposition 1 is not likely to have any long-term effect in addressing California’s houselessness crisis, improving mental health systems, or helping alleviate mass incarceration. Prop 1’s changes to the Mental Health Services Act would force mental health, housing, and substance use disorder programs to compete for funding, and the $6.4 billion of debt it would impose on California would primarily fund forced treatment and institutionalization – not the community-based mental health services and housing Californians desperately need. Californians should vote NO on Prop 1.” 

In 2023, Governor Newsom announced plans for broad mental health care reform that would focus state and county mental health care funds on individuals who are unhoused/unsheltered and living with serious mental illness or substance use disorders.  

Prop 1 is the result of this plan and has two components, each of which was passed as a bill late in the 2023 legislative session and bundled as Prop 1 on the March 2024 ballot.  

First, Prop 1 would amend the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) and change the rules about how the existing stream of MHSA funding — around $4 billion per year — is allocated.  Counties primarily use MHSA funding to provide free and accessible safety-net services to their most poor and vulnerable residents, and the changes will likely result in a reduction in community-based, culturally responsive mental health services and critical programs like non-police mental health crisis response.  

Prop 1 would also create a new funding stream for infrastructure by authorizing the issuance of $6.4 billion in bonds. These bonds were initially promoted as new money to create housing for individuals with behavioral health needs, but last-minute amendments during the legislative process revealed that the bonds would primarily fund treatment settings that segregate people from their communities and violate their civil rights, including inpatient beds and locked residential facilities.  

Eve Garrow, senior policy analyst at the ACLU of Southern California’s Dignity for All Project, issued the following statement:  

“Though touted as a solution to houselessness, Prop 1 is only projected to provide housing for 6,000 persons – while a separate, upcoming housing measure with a similar price tag would provide 20 times that amount. Prop 1 would reduce already-strapped community-based and culturally responsive mental health services and thwart efforts to minimize contact with law enforcement and legal systems for people in mental health crisis. We shouldn’t fall prey to a false zero-sum game that pits our needs for mental health services and housing against one another. Instead, we should expand the pie to meet all our basic human needs. Demand health care and housing for all. Vote NO on Prop 1.” 

The California ACLUs include ACLU California Action, ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of Southern California, and ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.