Senator Bob Huff
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 9, 2015
CONTACT: Bill Bird @ 916-651-4029
Mental Health Legislation Directed at California Veterans
Huff Measure Seeks to Address Problems Faced by Homeless Veterans
SACRAMENTO: California’s military veterans will gain better access to mental health professionals under legislation introduced by Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar). SB 689 will give preference points for Proposition 41 bond funding to projects that will keep a mental health professional on staff or contract for their services.
“In 2014, voters passed the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act (Proposition 41) which allows for $600 million in bonds to be used for housing homeless and low-income veterans,” said Senator Huff. “But to provide additional housing without the promise of mental health services doesn’t begin to address the problems that many veterans in California face.”
The California Department of Veterans Affairs (CDVA) estimates that there are over 15,000 homeless veterans in California. Of those, the CDVA estimates 55% of homeless veterans are in need of mental health services. While CDVA has mental health programs for veterans, making the homeless population aware of the programs or getting them to participate is difficult.
Veterans can face unique challenges. There are many emotions involved with being at war, separated from loved ones, as well as the stressors that are inherent in multiple and extended deployments. The stress encountered in service abroad can also play a role in mental health issues, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse. Since Proposition 41 projects will be securing a good number of California’s homeless veterans by providing them housing, the state can and should provide them the opportunity for mental health services.
“Providing our veterans with the shelter they need is absolutely the right thing to do, but it’s only a temporary solution to a much larger mental health problem,” said Senator Huff. “Without mental health services, we are potentially losing an opportunity to help this very important population and help curb the problem of homelessness.”
Proposition 41 requires the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to work with CDVA in coming up with a guideline system for awarding projects meeting certain criteria. SB 689 will further require CDVA and DHCD to give extra priority to Proposition 41 projects which include staffing or contracting with a mental health professional.
The Huff legislation has been formally endorsed by a number of organizations, including CarePossible, Mental Health America of CA, American Legion-Dept. of CA, AMVETS-Dept. of CA, CA Association of County Veterans Service Officers, CA State Commanders Veteran Council, Military Officers Association of America-CA Council of Chapters, VFW-Dept. of CA and Vietnam Veterans of American-CA State Council (partial list).
Senator Huff serves as the Senate Republican Leader and represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. Follow Senator Huff on Twitter at @bobhuff99.