Waste, Fraud, & Mismanagement

State Receives Little Information on Billions Spent for Mental Health

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The state spends heavily on mental health care programs under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, but state officials lack sufficient information about how the money is spent, the state auditor reported July 28.

“The treatment that individuals receive through the LPS Act is only one part of a much larger, county-based mental health system in which California invests billions of dollars each year,” the auditor wrote. “Despite the magnitude of that investment, policymakers and other stakeholders do not have the information they need to understand the extent to which these funds affect people’s lives. The State’s current public reporting related to mental health programs and services relies on disjointed and incomplete tools – a result of multiple funding sources with different requirements and levels of transparency.”

The auditor added:

“For instance, we did not identify consistent public reporting of funds that the State distributed when it transferred its responsibilities for providing mental health services to counties – which totaled nearly $3 billion in fiscal year 2018-19 – or to the outcomes counties produce for individuals with serious mental illnesses through those services. The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) contains the most comprehensive public reporting requirements of the major mental health funding sources, but this reporting is still insufficient for understanding the full range of counties’ mental health spending.”

Additionally, the MHSA reporting requirements make it difficult for policymakers to assess the balances of counties’ unspent funds, the auditor found.

The auditor recommended “an overhaul of mental health reporting requirements … that includes capturing comprehensive spending information as well as outcomes for counties’ specific programs and for the State’s overarching mental health system.”