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FUNDING CUT SPURS SUIT AGAINST SCHWARZENEGGER Mental health advocates last week followed through on a threat to sue the governor after he eliminated $55 million in funding for a program that helps homeless adults find housing and medical treatment. Three mental health organizations and four Californians who benefited from the program sued Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Alameda County Superior Court, arguing that he violated a 2004 voter initiative, Proposition 63. The measure taxes millionaires to generate additional money for mental health programs. It also requires the state to maintain the level of spending on mental health that was in the 2003-04 budget. Schwarzenegger in August cut the $55 million Homeless Adults Program as part of $700 million in line-item spending vetoes made to capture Republican votes for the 2007-08 state budget. His administration later provided $64 million in unspent Prop 63 money to counties and cities so they could restore the program for one year. But program advocates threatened to sue if he didn’t restore ongoing funding to the Homeless Adults Program, arguing that voters intended Prop 63 to boost existing state spending on mental health treatment, not replace it. “Prop 63 contained essentially a maintenance-of-effort provision: We want the money used for new or improved services,” said Steven Mayer, a partner with Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin, who is representing the mental health organizations pro bono. “That provision only makes sense if you have to maintain existing services.” Attorneys from the Western Center on Law and Poverty; Mental Health Advocacy Services and the National Center for Youth Law are also representing the petitioners. H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance, said that despite eliminating funding for the program, the state has actually increased spending on all mental health services, from $558 million in 2004 to $741 million in the current fiscal year. “We are exceeding the maintenance of effort by more than $200 million,” Palmer said. The Homeless Adults Program serves more than 4,500 mentally ill Californians who are homeless, incarcerated or at high risk of becoming homeless. At the program’s height, 53 programs in 34 counties offered motel vouchers, housing subsidies, payments for clean-and-sober living programs, groceries, meals and clothes. Advocates say the program has significantly decreased expensive hospital and jail stays among clients.

Cheryl Miller

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