Newsletter Article

May 17, 2023

MHSA Funding and Suicide Are Linked 

By Amie Miller, PsyD., Executive Director 

During Mental Health Awareness Month, your counties (and we at CalMHSA) have all continued to build public awareness about the need to reduce mental health stigma, the availability of mental health services, and the importance of preventing suicide.  

In California over the last decade, we’ve seen encouraging progress in the reduction of suicide mortality. A 2022 study reported that increased funding from the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) lowered suicide mortality by approximately 5,600 avoided deaths between 2012 and 2019.  

But a new study by Dr. Michael Thom, commissioned by CalMHSA, estimates that proposed changes to MHSA funding could lead to mitigating the gains previously made “Under conservative assumptions, a 30 percent funding reduction could lead to an additional 2,500 suicide deaths in California over the coming decade compared to the state’s current trajectory” 

Earlier this spring, the governor proposed a ballot initiative that would substantially shift the way your counties use MHSA funding, as we search for solutions for unhoused Californians, and particularly those who have severe mental health conditions, we need to be sure that we don’t backslide on important gains with other serious societal issues, like suicide. 

From the latest study: “For example, the 2022 study reported disproportionately large effects on the female suicide rate compared to the male rate; MHSA funding reductions are likely to jeopardize that progress. They would also undermine relative improvement among males, who are far more likely than females to inflict fatal self-harm.” 

Although the governor’s proposal won’t be considered by voters through a ballot initiative until 2024, it does create a pending uncertainty for your departments and your future priorities. At CalMHSA, we’ll continue to look for opportunities to shine a light on what’s working, the systems that support your efforts, and the funding that clearly benefits Californians and saves lives.