Tens of thousands of Los Angeles County residents have experienced significant improvements in mental health and wellbeing—including measurable reductions in homelessness and gains in employment—as a direct result of California’s Mental Health Services Act, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The report, commissioned by Los Angeles County, is the first extensive, independent analysis of the impacts of the Mental Health Services Act, or Proposition 63, since its passage by California voters in 2004. Dubbed the millionaire’s taxit generates more than $2 billion annually for mental health care in California for programs ranging from early intervention and prevention to full-service care for people with serious brain illnesses.

The RAND report focuses exclusively on Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest public provider of mental health services. Given L.A. County’s size and share of Mental Health Services Act revenue, the findings serve as a major statement on the importance of the act as the County addresses a broad statewide effort to ensure the timely expenditure of the funds.

“This is exactly the kind of analysis needed to help us hone and grow our services across populations,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Sherin, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. “But for us, it’s only the beginning of how we can use data and outcomes to help point the way forward. We know these services are effective and are laser focused on expanding programs that work by taking them to the streets, neighborhoods, libraries, schools and parks where we can more robustly reach people in need.”

Among the key findings of the Santa Monica-based non-profit institution:

  • From 2012 through 2016, the L.A. County Department of Mental Health provided prevention and early intervention services to almost 130,000 youth and intensive clinical and social services to stabilize those with serious psychiatric illnesses to almost 25,000 youth and adults.
  • Rates of homelessness and inpatient hospital stays fell dramatically while rates of employment and connection with a primary care doctor markedly improved.
  • Children and young adults enrolled in full service partnership programs tended to be low-income and suffering from depressive disorder, schizophrenia or other psychotic conditions. Their overall rates of homelessness and inpatient hospital stays were significantly reduced over the course of treatment.

Taken as a whole, the report underscores the remarkable benefits of early intervention efforts both in terms of the human toll and as a cost-effective public investment. The other core services measured in the RAND analysis involved full service partnership programs that offer intensive services to people who suffer from serious mental illness that have progressed to the point of severe dysfunction. Most of these individuals are homeless, making them harder to engage and treat with any regularity.

Source: “Rand Analysis Finds Mental health Services Act Brings Life-Changing Benefits to Tens of Thousands in L.A. County,” press release published by Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health on March 13, 2018.