CalMatters event: “If you think the system works, you’re dead wrong”

A physician, an advocate, a public health specialist, a suicide-attempt survivor and a California state lawmaker gathered in downtown Sacramento today to offer their diagnosis of the state’s mental health system.

The consensus was summed up by Sen. Jim Beall: “We need to start from scratch.”

“I haven’t heard a lot of cheerleaders for the status quo,” said Beall, a Democrat from San Jose and the author of several bills that would expand access to mental health treatment. “If you think the system works, you’re dead wrong.”

The panel discussion, hosted by CALmatters and the California Health Care Foundation, builds off an ongoing CALmatters reporting project by Jocelyn Wiener and Byrhonda Lyons on the state’s fragmented, sometimes fatally dysfunctional mental health system.

Who are falling through the cracks? What is the state doing right? And where can policymakers improve?

Wiener put those questions to the panel, and then asked them to share solutions. Despite their array of professional and personal backgrounds, everyone agreed that the state is repeatedly failing to ensure quality care to those who suffer from mental illness.