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San Diego politicians were all about celebrating World Mental Health Day this week – and drawing attention to the county’s response to the health crisis.
First, on Tuesday night, Mayor Kevin Faulconer went on a tweet storm about the need for the region to step up its response to mental-health issues.
He praised the county for budgeting hundreds of millions of dollars for mental-health dollars but the subtext was clear: It’s not doing enough.
“Just like the city is doing with homelessness, the County MUST take a different approach with mental health,” Faulconer tweeted.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria weighed in on Wednesday, noting that San Diego County and other counties statewide have piles of unspent mental-health funds from Prop. 63, a voter-approved 1 percent tax on millionaires.
Indeed, Voice of San Diego last year revealed San Diego County had nearly $166 million sitting unspent in its Mental Health Services Act account – and that other large California counties had piles of cash in the bank too.
“We have a lot of work to do to fight stigma and help those suffering with mental illness,” wrote Gloria, who this year unsuccessfully pushed legislation to try to force more Prop. 63 spending. “Demanding CA counties use the $2.5 BILLION in unspent Prop 63 funds would go a long way to doing that.”
By Wednesday afternoon, County Supervisor Ron Roberts wasn’t having any more of this.
“Afternoon Todd. Old numbers, my friend,” Roberts wrote on Twitter. “That’s from 2015-16. We are spending $80 million more annually than 2015-16 in San Diego County. The unspent reserve is gone by 2019-20.”
A spokeswoman for the county’s Health and Human Services Agency later shared a report with VOSD showing it’s set to spend $201 million in Prop. 63 money this year, nearly two-thirds more than it spent annually just a few years ago.
That report includes a chart showing the county estimates there will soon be no unspent Prop. 63 funds if tax money flows in as projected.
That figure doesn’t include a $42 million reserve meant to shield the county from year-to-year fluctuations in revenue from the tax.
After being called out by Roberts, Gloria returned to Twitter and the two ended Mental Health Day on a positive note.
“Yes my friend. SD County is making progress – thanks in part to you – but that isn’t so across the state,” Gloria wrote. “If only SD acts, ~$2.3B will still be left unspent. I remain committed to pursuing legislation to fix this statewide.”
“Always enjoy working with you, my friend,” Roberts replied.