Elected officials are zeroing in on mental health reform, as well as gun control, as voters show increasing concern on crime and homelessness.
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“We are living in a very fragile moment, a very fragile moment in our society where the issues of mental health are becoming ever more prominent.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg made those comments Monday, a day after California’s capital city experienced its worst mass shooting in history and the country’s deadliest so far this year. Police have arrested two suspects, brothers, so far.
Although it’s unclear whether mental illness was a factor in the shooting that killed six and injured 12, Steinberg said, “I hope that this is the time where mental health gets elevated from an issue that no one frankly would ever talk about or work on to an issue that dominates the legislative session.”
Indeed, the press conference at which Steinberg spoke — one to promote Democratic state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton’s sweeping package of bills to reform California’s behavioral health system — was the latest indication that elected officials are zeroing in on mental health as voters show increasing concern about crime and homelessness and grapple with the enduring trauma of the pandemic.
- Eggman’s eight-bill package would, among other things, allow courts to order medications as part of treatment plans for severely mentally ill and disabled Californians; establish an online dashboard showing available beds in psychiatric, crisis stabilization, mental health and alcohol or drug abuse recovery facilities; and create a regional strategy for developing behavioral health infrastructure.
- Eggman and some of the mayors of California’s 13 largest cities who spoke at the press conference emphasized that the proposals complement Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to develop a framework for courts to force people with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders into treatment.
- Also Monday, lawmakers sent to Newsom’s desk a bill that would establish quality standards for substance-use treatment programs and require those facilities to enact a client’s bill of rights ensuring safe and ethical treatment.
- Local governments are also placing more emphasis on mental health: Many law enforcement agencies are incorporating behavioral health clinicians into their 911 response, and San Francisco is rapidly hiring public health workers to help manage its ongoing drug overdose crisis.
Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story
Susan Talamantes Eggman
State Senate, District 5 (Stockton)
State Senate, District 5 (Stockton)
Time in office
Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman has taken at least $1.3 million from the Party sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 22% of her total campaign contributions.
For many Californians, the Sacramento mass shooting exemplified the ways in which the state’s various crises can collide. Among the six victims identified Monday by the coroner’s office was Melinda Davis, a 57-year-old homeless woman.
- Steinberg told the Sacramento Bee: “The homeless themselves are victimized in more ways than any of us who are concerned or complain about the larger social condition. Here is an innocent person who was unsheltered or homeless who lost her life. If this tragedy compels us to work even harder to get more people indoors, then her memory will be a blessing.”
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Other stories you should know
1. Will shooting spark more gun control?
The Sacramento mass shooting has also prompted Democratic lawmakers to double down on a package of gun control bills making its way through the Legislature. Today, a key committee is slated to consider a controversial proposal — sponsored by Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta — that co-opts the structure of Texas’ abortion ban by giving private citizens the right to sue firearm makers and sellers who violate certain state gun laws. Democratic legislators are also planning a press conference today to tout the bills’ ability to help end California’s “scourge of gun violence.”
In a Monday appearance on Fresno talk radio station KMJ, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert — one of the candidates challenging Bonta for attorney general — was asked if California needs more gun laws. Schubert, a longtime Republican who re-registered as an independent in 2018, noted that the Golden State already has the country’s strictest gun laws. Still, she appeared open to additional measures.
- Schubert: “That doesn’t mean there’s not opportunities to do more. Listen, I’m an advocate for doing everything we can to deal with ghost guns. … We don’t want those guns, or any guns, in the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.”
2. San Diego eyes more eviction protections
Amid concerns that tens of thousands of California renters are still at risk of eviction despite recently extended statewide protections for some tenants, the San Diego City Council voted 5-1 Monday to block landlords from removing tenants if they want to take their property off the market or make significant repairs. Under the moratorium, which requires another council vote to become law, landlords will have to wait to do so until 60 days after the local COVID state of emergency ends or Sept. 30, whichever happens first, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. However, landlords would still be able to evict tenants if they or a closely related family member want to move in. While some tenant advocates applauded the moratorium, it was opposed by some landlord groups, including the California Apartment Association, according to the Union-Tribune.
In other California housing news:
- Three months after a highly controversial bill banning most single-family zoning became law, barely a ripple has been felt in Bay Area cities, the Mercury News reports: San Jose, Fremont, Cupertino, Concord and Redwood City have yet to receive a single application from a homeowner seeking to split their lot, and Palo Alto received one application — only to have it withdrawn. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s response to the law seems likely to discourage new construction, the San Francisco Standard reports.
- The news comes as more and more Californians find homeownership slipping beyond their reach. For example, just 24% of San Francisco homes sold in 2019 were affordable to residents earning between $80,000 and $165,000, according to a Monday report from UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation.
- Meanwhile, studies continue to reinforce California’s need for more housing: Building more units could help reverse declining public school enrollment in Santa Clara County, according to a new report commissioned by the nonprofit Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
3. California climate updates
Three indications climate was California’s word of the day on Monday:
- The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, which advises state lawmakers, previewed today’s release of six reports assessing climate change’s implications for California’s economy, health, education, transportation and more: “Addressing the widespread impacts of climate change represents a significant challenge for the state, and one that will increasingly occupy the Legislature’s agenda in the coming years,” the office wrote. “For example, in 2021, California experienced its hottest average summer temperatures, its second largest wildfire and its third driest year on record.”
- The Newsom administration unveiled a new interactive website for California’s climate adaptation strategy, which under state law must be updated every three years. For the first time, Californians can track the state’s progress in meeting deadlines and success metrics for nearly 150 key actions under the umbrella of six priority themes, the administration said.
- And a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that while it’s unlikely countries will be able to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030 “without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors,” there are nevertheless “significant opportunities” to slash emissions in half by 2030. That could galvanize California, which the Newsom administration has described as “an international leader” in combatting climate change, to consider even bolder actions.
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