On Thursday, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to approve an audit of how the state spends mental health funds raised by Proposition 63, AP/U-T San Diego reports (Hedlund, AP/U-T San Diego, 8/23).
Prop. 63 -- also known as The Mental Health Services Act -- has raised $7.4 billion through a 1% tax on residents with incomes greater than $1 million annually.
A recent Associated Press report found that tens of millions of dollars generated by Prop. 63 have been allocated to aid residents who have not been diagnosed with a mental illness. The report found that the money has been used to bolster programs such as yoga, art and drama classes, horseback riding and gardening.
Earlier this month, Assembly members Dan Logue (R-Linda) and Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) -- requested that the legislative committee conduct an audit of how California spends the funding.
Last week, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who co-authored Prop. 63, formally requested an audit.
In a prepared statement, Steinberg said that some of the criticisms against the state's use of Prop. 63 funding might be valid. However, he said that the majority of Prop. 63 funding has been well spent (California Healthline, 8/16).
State Auditor Elaine Howle said that the audit -- slated to begin in the next few weeks -- will require 4,500 work hours and take an estimated seven to eight months to complete (Steinberg release, 8/23).
According to Howle, the audit will cost nearly $450,000 (AP/U-T San Diego, 8/23).
She said the audit will assess:
- Allocation and use of the mental health funds; and
- Performance outcomes in counties located in the five service and support areas specified in Prop. 63.
In response to the committee's approval of the audit, Steinberg said, "In my view, one thing [Prop. 63] hasn't done well is commit itself to perform outcome evaluations for all parts of the Act."
He added that he is confident the audit "will be positive, but where there are problems, criticisms or flaws, tell us that as well so we can improve services" for individuals with mental illnesses (Steinberg release, 8/23).