New Report: How California’s Mental Health Services Act Falls Short of Equity Promises

Author Details

Monika Lee

Senior Communications Manager
(858) 353-7271

Organization: California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

California Pan-Ethnic Health Network 
For Immediate Release
September 20, 2021
Contact: Monika Lee, (858)-353-7271

Sacramento, CA – Today a group of ten local and statewide organizations released a new report, “A Right to Heal: Mental Health in Diverse Communities.” The report was led by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network in partnership with the Southeast Asia Resource Action CenterCalifornia Black Health NetworkLatino Coalition for a Healthy CaliforniaCalifornia Consortium for Urban Indian HealthBakersfield American Indian Health ProjectCalifornia Black Women’s Health ProjectRestorative Justice for Oakland YouthVisión y Compromiso, and Hmong Cultural Center of Butte County  

Over the past year, local organizations partnered with statewide agencies to convene over 600 community members at in-person and virtual listening sessions in Alameda, Kern, Butte, and Los Angeles to learn how Black, Indigenous, people of color engage with mental health and mental health systems. 

This report takes findings from the listening sessions and outlines key recommendations for equitable improvements in the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) and advocacy opportunities in the local jurisdictions where agencies reside. The MHSA was voted into law by Californians in 2004 with the passing of Proposition 63 to expand and transform California’s behavioral health system to better serve individuals with and at risk of serious mental health issues and their families. 

While the MHSA contains specific requirements for stakeholder engagement and consumer voice, local partners found many of these opportunities inaccessible or not inclusive for community members to robustly and authentically engage. Institutional racism, stigma, and lack of culturally appropriate access continue to drive poor stakeholder engagement and outcomes for BIPOC communities in the MHSA.   

In order to uphold the promises and intent of the MHSA, local jurisdictions and the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commissions have numerous opportunities to shift power into the hands of communities, address the drivers of mental health, and promote mental health awareness to better serve BIPOC communities.