Originally published at La Opini??n. Republished by permission.
By approving it at the polls, California voters recognized the merits of Proposition 63, which provides funding for mental health programs by levying a tax on incomes over $1 million. It is unfortunate that the promise to strictly oversee the distribution of funds was not fulfilled.
Each ballot initiative that collects and distributes public funds includes a promise to voters to oversee the process in order to ensure that the money is used appropriately.
A state audit on Proposition 63 shows that this did not happen with the initiative. Until not long ago, eight years after its approval and $7.4 billion later, the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission had not established a process to oversee the use of the money. First, the press had to report that the money was being spent on Innovation Programs that offered yoga, martial arts and acupuncture, among others. After that, the commission began doing what it should have done after the initiative was approved in 2004.
We are not commenting on the benefits that the activities of the counties' Innovation Programs could have. The issue is the lack of permanent oversight of this spending and determining whether the activities that the money is being spent on are beneficial for mental health.
Today, like back in 2004, we believe in the importance of this initiative in an area as delicate as mental health, where stigmas and prejudice still persist. However, the audit's findings, that the commission did not do its work in overseeing the implementation of Proposition 63, hurt the credibility of future ballot initiatives that promise to monitor the public funds that are collected and distributed.