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$6.38 billion for housing and mental health care

A new proposition has passed, addressing two major concerns in California.

Prop 1 addresses the mental health and homeless crisis by authorizing the state to borrow $6.38 billion to build 4,350 housing units, half of which would be reserved for veterans, as well as adding 6,800 mental health and addiction treatment beds.

Californians were nearly torn in half for approval of this proposition, with the slimmest margins—50.2% voting “yes,” and 49.8% voting “no.”

Dr. Jennifer Dragonette is a licensed psychologist who believes that these bills are currently essential for the state.

“Both of these bills are really needed in California right now,” Dr. Dragonette said. “There’s quite an issue when it comes to access to mental health care.”

According to the California Health Care foundation, mental illness is the one most common health condition for Californians, with nearly 1 in 7 adults experiencing mental illness, and 1 in 26 experiencing a serious mental illness that makes it difficult to carry out daily activities.

Children and teenagers are a demographic that has growing rates of depression and anxiety, says Dr. Dragonette. She says these numbers may be higher because there is more awareness now than in the past, but also says that social media may be a factor.

Shasta County has the highest rate out of all California counties, according to the California Department of Public Health. There is limited knowledge on why exactly Shasta has such high numbers, but it may be because of isolation and limited access to treatment.

Shasta also scored high on the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) survey. ACEs are 10 common childhood traumas divided into three categories: abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. These traumas can affect the brains and bodies of growing children and impact the health of adults. Research shows that having four or more ACEs is often the point where it’s hard to be resilient. In Shasta County, 40% of adults said they had experienced four or more ACEs growing up—double the state average.

California also has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation. According to the senate, in 2022, more than half of all unsheltered people in the country were in California—51%.

Dr. Dragonette believes that these issues can be addressed with proper treatment. She also mentions that therapy can be just as effective as medication.

“Unfortunately, there are extremely high rates of mental health problems in our homeless population, and I think it’s really easy to place blame or to think I would never go there… but when we have these experiences over and over again in our lives , of maybe being born with a lot of vulnerabilities and deficits, maybe adding on parents who didn’t know what to do themselves, and then we add all the genetic disposition, you can start to imagine how someone might end up in a situation they wouldn’t have chosen.”

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