Gov. Brown vetoes mental health bill; Rejects services targeting college students

jerry-podium
jerry-podium

California Gov. Jerry Brown

 California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed AB 2017, a bill which would have increased funding for mental health services for higher education student in California Sept. 24.

Introduced by Sacramento-area Assemblymember Kevin McCarty in February this year, AB 2017 would have created a trust to fund competitive grants for mental health services.

Although the bill was not signed, it was a step in the right direction, according to McCarty.

“It was disheartening to hear of the governor’s veto, given how hard students worked on this bill, but we’ve raised awareness of the need to increase mental health services on our campuses,” McCarty said in an email.

In an official statement regarding the veto, Student Senate Interim President Melody Jimenez said the bill had a lot of support and would’ve established mental health resources in colleges.

“The Student Senate is upset that Gov. Brown has vetoed AB 2017,” Jimenez said, “which had bipartisan support and would have helped many Sac City students.”

Brown cited the bills lack of specification for source funding as reasoning for the veto.

“While well-intentioned, the bill is premature as it commits to a particular program structure without specifying the amount or source of funding,” Brown wrote in his message.

The bill would have provided services made available to graduate and undergraduate students in California Community College, California State University and University of California systems, according to the fact sheet.

“I imagine we would have had a full-time therapist or two on the campus, some interns. It would be great if we could have someone who could prescribe medications,” said Troy Myers, City College English professor and a member of the Faculty Association of California Community College (FACCC), a group that co-sponsored the bill.

“The need is desperate. It’s a student success issue. It’s not just a social justice issue, which it is,” Myers said. “We need to have those services on the college campus where students come to learn.”

The majority of mental health issues become apparent between the ages of 16 and 24, yet very few mental health services exist on public college campuses in California, according to Maggie Merritt, executive director of the Steinberg Institute.

“We identified a legislature that would champion that issue to secure funding in the budget,” said Merritt, “in order to create linkages to mental health services on campuses in California.”

Although the original bill did contain source funding and a specific dollar amount, it did not have secure funding in the state budget, according to Merritt.

Mccarty says he had attempted to secure funding early on, but it did not make it on the final budget.

“Early in the budget process, I was able secure funding for college mental health, unfortunately it did not make it to the final negotiations. Next year, I’ll continue to work on increasing access for mental health services for students,” said McCarty.

The bill would have utilized funding from Proposition 63, or the Mental Health Services Act, a bill introduced in 2004 that generates roughly $1 billion annually by imposing an additional 1 percent tax on personal incomes of $1 million or greater.

The portion of AB 2017 specifying source funding was omitted during appropriations by the legislature, according to Myers.

“Moving a bill with a large appropriation, outside of the budget process, is an uphill battle. Without the funding, it became a tougher sell for the governor to sign this measure, which was highlighted in his veto message.  I’ll continue to work with the Senate and governor to prioritize mental health funding for students,” said McCarty.

Merritt said a new bill will likely be submitted next year possibly with the same author.

“We’re planning on trying it again this coming year in 2017,” Merritt said. “So we’ll do our best to convince the governor’s office to include funding for mental health service for public college campuses in the governor’s budget.”

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