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GOP Lawmaker Seeks Audit Of Mental Health Spending

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- A Republican lawmaker said Friday that he will introduce legislation seeking annual audits to show how California counties are spending billions of dollars in voter-approved money for mental health programs, after a state audit found there has been little oversight to ensure the money is going to those who need it most.

The California State Capitol in Sacramento.
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Above: The California State Capitol in Sacramento.

Regular, intensive audits of all 58 counties are needed to ensure they are complying with all aspects of Proposition 63, the 2004 ballot measure that authorized a 1 percent tax on incomes over $1 million, said Assemblyman Dan Logue of Marysville, who is vice chairman of the Assembly Health Committee.

The state auditor reported this week that California has failed to properly monitor the program and that the state can offer "little assurance that the counties have effectively and appropriately used the almost $7.4 billion" raised since 2005.

The review came in response to an investigation last year by The Associated Press that found tens of millions of dollars raised under Proposition 63 have gone to programs designed to help those who have not been diagnosed with any mental illness. Those so-called innovation programs include yoga, gardening, art classes and horseback riding.

"When voters approved higher taxes in 2004 to spend more on mental health, they expected those taxes to treat those who are seriously ill," Logue said in a written statement. "Yet government bureaucrats have spent millions on questionable priorities such as yoga classes for city workers, horseback riding for teens, and Zumba dance classes."

Also Friday, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, a co-author of Proposition 63, sent a one-sentence letter to senior officials at the California Department of Health Care Services and a commission established to oversee the Mental Health Services Act. His letter asked when they would "complete and publish outcome-based evaluations on each part" of the program.

Logue said he will seek bi-partisan co-authors for his legislation to require regular audits. He intends to introduce the bill next year.

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