Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks in support of Prop. 1 during a press conference at the United Domestic Workers of America building in San Diego on Feb. 29, 2024. Voters narrowly passed the measure, and Newsom plans to speed the release of money for mental health housing. Photo by Kristian Carreon for CalMatters

The first $3.3 billion of bonds approved by voters in March to build and rehab housing and treatment beds for people with mental illness will be available to counties months ahead of schedule, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday.

And counties, he emphasized repeatedly, had better get to work.

“You’re either part of the problem or you’re not. Period,” he said at a press conference in front of Cordilleras Mental Health Center, in Redwood City.

“Let’s move out of the way. Let’s do the right thing. And let’s have the sense of urgency that people in the state of California demand.”

The funding, slated to come online July 1, is more than half of the $6.4 billion in bond money promised under Proposition 1, one of Newsom’s signature mental health initiatives. Prop. 1 also requires that counties spend more of their existing mental health funds on people who are chronically homeless. Despite early expectations that it would sail through, Prop. 1 barely squeaked by.

The announcement comes at a politically tricky moment for Newsom, who last week announced more than $30 billion in one-time and ongoing cuts as he seeks to close a sizable state budget deficit.

Newsom noted Tuesday that his administration is rolling out the money much faster than has been the case with past bonds, including a similar measure known as No Place Like Home. The process of distributing the funds for that $2 billion 2018 housing bond took years, and has yielded much less housing than voters were promised.

Prop. 1 comes coupled with several other major mental health initiatives, including conservatorship reform and CARE Court.

The announcement was part victory lap for Newsom and part frustrated exhortation of the counties to move faster.

“It’s time to do your job. It’s time to get things done. You asked for these reforms. We’ve provided them. Now it’s time to deliver,” he said.


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