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Prop.63 Funded Program Provides Alternative Paths to Mental Wellness

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, September 10, 2012

Meghan Stanton tried to kill herself once, but she shows no sign of depression today as she gives a tour of the Wellness and Recovery Center in North Sacramento.  

Stanton is Executive Director of the Consumer Self Help Center, a program run by and for people with mental illness.

The Center provides traditional services such as medication management. But it also offers peer therapy and daily activities.

Groups help people to deal with trauma, co-dependency, and anger. Others focus on nutrition, living with HIV, and even basic yoga.

"We all really are trying to provide something here that we thought might have been helpful to us when we were on the receiving end of services," says Stanton.

Funding yoga for mental health is one part of the Act that has raised eyebrows. Lawmakers called for an audit over concerns money was being spent on people without mental illness.

But Stanton says most of the people who walk through their doors have a diagnosis, and yoga can draw people into other activities that lead to recovery.


Thousands of clients have come through the center over the years. Linda Seay is one of them.
In 1986, Seay was diagnosed with untreatable, medication-resistant schizophrenia, and was told she would be institutionalized.
"For quite some time, that seemed like it was going to happen," says Seay.

Seay's favorite class is called "Writing as a Path to Healing." She says she's learning to write to move past traumatic events, not to recount them. Seay says she's taking a quarter of the medication she was on when she first got here.

"The changes I have made in myself are just tremendous in just the few months that I've been here," she says. "And it's because of the groups. You know, the medication is only a small portion of it."

Meghan Stanton says years ago, the Consumer Self Help Center was much smaller, and was little more than a drop-in center. She says the Mental Health Services Act provided an opportunity to ask clients about services they wanted. They asked people with mental illness what wellness and recover looks like to them.

"And that's how we got here," says Stanton."Really, this program and this model didn't exist before the Mental Health Services Act."

The part of Proposition 63 most under scrutiny are the programs under the umbrella of prevention.
"When you're growing any large new flower garden, there's going to be some weeds," says Rusty Selix, a co-author of the Act who now directs two California mental health organizations. "No one is saying that every single dollar is spent perfectly."
Selix says the money is going towards what the law intended; helping take the severely mentally ill off the streets, closing gaps in children's services, and paying for prevention. But he says mental health services have a long way to go.  

"To the extent that there's frustration, it's mostly due to the economy. That we have not made nearly the progress we thought we would have made by now, in reducing the unmet need for mental health care. And that's due to the fact that the foundation upon which we were trying to build Prop. 63 has crumbled," says Selix.

Selix supports the audit of the Act he helped write. He says an audit could help eliminate wasteful bureaucracy and spotlight county by county variations in spending. But he stands by the non-traditional mental health care that he says could help people manage their lives.

"These other forms of activities do have therapeutic value," says Selix. "In the right manner, at the right cost, they can be a cost effective strategy. "

The Consumer Self Help Center hasn't measured the success of its programs.

Over the coming months, the state audit will provide its own evaluation of similar programs around the state.   

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