Senator Scott Wiener and Steinberg Institute Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Early Intervention Mental Health Services for Youth to Prevent Long-Term Mental Illness

February 6, 2018

Sacramento –  Today, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and the Steinberg Institute, founded by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, announced the introduction of Senate Bill 1004, a bipartisan bill to expand effective early intervention for children, teenagers, college students, and young adults experiencing early signs of mental illness. SB 1004 does so by requiring a much more structured and focused approach on prevention and early intervention mental health programs funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), which administers the millionaires tax (Prop 63).

SB 1004 is sponsored by the Steinberg Institute, which was founded by Mayor Steinberg, who authored Prop 63. Senator Wiener is joined on SB 1004 by joint author Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) and co-authors Senator Anthony Portantino and Assemblymembers Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), and Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley.) 

The Governor’s January budget projects continued growth of MHSA funds, with an estimate of $2.2 billion in revenue for the 2018-19 fiscal year. About $500 million of these funds are set aside specifically for prevention and early intervention (PEI) programs, but there is a marked and inequitable disparity across the state as to how each county utilizes these funds.  Fewer than half of California’s counties follow evidence-based models of care to effectively intervene in serious mental illness in order to prevent it or address it in its early stages. Treating mental illness when it first manifests significantly increases the chances of curing or effectively managing it.

SB 1004 provides more structure to these early intervention funds and focuses them on children and youth. Studies show that 50 percent of all mental illness - for example, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder - first manifests by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24. Clinical research also shows that if left untreated upon early manifestation, mental illness becomes more difficult to treat over time and increases the likelihood of suicide, forced hospitalization, and homelessness. In the United States alone, approximately 100,000 children and young adults experience their first symptom of a serious mental illness each year.

SB 1004 improves and standardizes best-practices for prevention and early intervention programs at the county level. Creating a more focused approach for requirements for county MHSA-funded prevention and early intervention services will lower the chances that a young person will experience a psychotic break and thus keep them on a path of life-long success.

“By improving our ability to detect and treat the first signs of mental illness, we can help our children and young adults stay in school and lead full lives,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “It shouldn’t matter which county you live in — all young people deserve access to quality mental health programs to prevent long-term mental illness and homelessness. To keep our young people healthy and on track, we need to ensure that prevention and early intervention programs offer effective and scientifically-approved models of care.”

“The time has come for California to get far more strategic about how we spend $500 million a year that the Mental Health Services Act generates for prevention and early intervention programs,” said Darrell Steinberg, founder of the Steinberg Institute, a nonprofit public policy institute dedicated to advancing the cause of brain health in California. “This legislation will help ensure that prevention and early intervention efforts incorporate the most recent research, tools and technology we have at our disposal.  It will help ensure every child in every county has access to the highest quality care. It marks the beginning of our efforts to scale up successful, evidence-based treatment models across the state.”

“Thanks to a comprehensive, early intervention, my diagnosis of schizophrenia at age 18 turned from a potential tragedy into triumph,” said Brandon Staglin, President of One Mind, an international brain health organization funding open science research to save lives.  “Today, I am living well, married, and the leader of an international brain health research organization. The more young people who can receive evidence-based early treatment for serious psychiatric illness, the more lives we will enable to reach their productive, meaning-filled potential. I wholeheartedly support this bill.”

Under SB 1004, counties will need to spend a portion of their prevention and early intervention funds on at least one of the following proven programs:

  1. Early psychosis and mood disorder detection and intervention
  2. College mental health outreach, engagement, and service delivery
  3. Childhood trauma prevention and early intervention

Right now, fewer than half the counties in California offer these evidence-based programs. That means, in California, a child's prospects for early intervention in serious mental illness rise or fall based on ZIP code. An audit by the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission describing these statewide disparities can be found below.


2017 Report Mental Health Services Act Evaluation of Outcomes and Associated Costs for Early Psychosis Programs  by the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission