Board reverses mayor’s mental health cuts

Pub date July 22, 2010
WriterAlex Emslie
SectionPolitics Blog

San Francisco’s $6.5 billion budget, which the Board of Supervisors approved late Tuesday nigth, included a complete restoration of outpatient mental health services funded through the city’s Department of Public Health. The board is expected to finalize the same budget after a second reading scheduled for July 27.

The board reversed a more than $4.1 million cut to community behavioral health services proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom in early June, which would have affected a dozen agencies and approximately 1,000 patients. As the Guardian reported on June 8, Newsom’s massive cut to the DPH would have resulted in a much greater loss to community nonprofits that leverage federal dollars from city funding to treat San Francisco’s most severely mentally ill homeless and poor.

Sup. Bevan Dufty told the Guardian he was very impressed by Citywide Case Management and Community Focus after walking rounds with one of the nonprofit’s caseworkers. Citywide is one of the San Francisco’s best performing mental health nonprofits, according to DPH reviews, and it would also have been the hardest hit under Newsom’s plan.

“It’s clear to me that this is a program that we ought to be doubling rather than cutting,” Dufty told us. “The more that people saw what they were doing, the more people would get behind what they were doing. Other cities are building models based on what Citywide Case management is doing now.”

Citywide Director Dr. David Fariello wrote the Guardian this letter about restoration of funding to his program to the Guardian: “We have good news for the supporters of Citywide Case Management and Community Focus mental health services. As you remember we were facing the prospect of 38 percent budget lose and cutting services to 240 of the severely mentally ill clients that we treat. On July 20, the Board of Supervisors voted for a full restoration of outpatient mental health services. This means that we will not need to cut services to the clients we serve.
“Your article, as well as phone calls, emails, and letters from supporters made clear to the Mayor’s Office and to the Board of Supervisors how critical our services are. Citywide/Community Focus supporters generated more input than any other budget cut issue. The Mayor restored 40 percent of our cuts, even after submitting his budget to the Board of Supervisors. Ours was the only cut to be so restored. The Board restored the remainder along with other outpatient mental health programs.
“Thank you for your support. In return, we are rededicating ourselves to providing comprehensive, cutting-edge, quality treatment to those San Franciscans at highest risk because of their mental illness.”