Behavioral Health matters because healthy people make healthy societies. It’s clear that having funding for behavioral health is critical not merely because it helps the person with behavioral health needs — allowing folks who need behavioral health services to continue to be productive members of society.
I think the state needs to pass single-payer healthcare. I myself am a recovering heroin addict, and without the Affordable Care Act, in particular changing the age a child terms out of their parents insurance coverage and the expansion of Medical, saves my life. I was able to get the help I needed to stay away from opioids and other drugs for nearly four years now.
The state also needs to take proactive steps to reform our Criminal Justice system. During the primary election, our local Sheriff straight out admitted that jails and prisons have become de facto mental health institutions. This must stop. There are several criminal justice reforms that could begin to stop this egregious practice, e.g., making changes to the three strikes law, providing better mental health services in the short term, while in the medium putting a plan in place to provide alternative housing/sentencing for non-violent offenders who suffer from mental health/substance abuses issues, with a long tern goal of finding more humane housing and treatment for criminal offenders who suffer from mental health disorders.
Ultimately, I think the state legislature and the next Governor should move to position California as the state that takes the lead in decriminalizing and destigmatizing mental health disorders. This issue is a complex issue and will require help and buy-in from all levels of Government: Federal, State, and County/Municipal Governments.
As I mentioned above, one of the ways California can lead the way is by slowing down the jailing and imprisonment of people who suffer from mental health/substance abuse disorders.
Another way California could lead is by ensuring law enforcement agencies across the state have the training necessary to deescalate situations with individuals that may have Behavioral Health issues, without having to use force. Many times the practices of law enforcement agencies have the unintended consequence of escalating a situation with people who have mental health issues.
I am ABA certified as a Behavioral Therapist and have previously worked with children of all ages that were on the Autism Spectrum. In already tense situations, people on the spectrum may present certain challenges compared to those not on the spectrum, e.g., not understanding commands, or in some cases not even being physically cable of complying with an officer’s request. Having the experience of working with people on the spectrum, I know that it is critical that law enforcement officers receive better training regarding how to deal with folks who have behavioral health issues such as (but not limited to) folks on the spectrum, those with downs syndrome, and people with schizophrenia and other personality disorders. It is important that officers know and understanding how to deal with these challenges in a way that maintains the dignity of the person they are interacting with. It is important to remember, that these folks are still people, behavioral health issues or not, and the deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
I absolutely will commit to making behavioral health a priority.