Some University of California student leaders said they were disappointed by Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to veto a bill that aimed to provide increased funding for California mental health services.
Assembly Bill 2017, introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), would have created a grant program for the UC, California State University and California Community College systems to improve access to mental health services.
UC spokesperson Claire Doan said the UC originally had a plan for which services it would fund with money from the bill before the governor vetoed it.
“We were looking at building a sustainable system-wide model that allowed for student and staff innovation in prevention and early intervention efforts to target underserved populations, and provide self-care and advanced training for providers,” Doan said.
Brown said in his veto message that though the bill was well-intentioned, he thought it was premature to sign because it did not specify a funding amount and source.
“Without this pertinent information, I cannot give this matter full consideration, given the complexities of mental health funding,” Brown said.
Suher Adi, chair of the UC Student Association Government Relations Committee and a third-year political science and Middle Eastern studies student at UC Berkeley, said the original version of the bill specified a funding source, but she thought some lawmakers removed it to help it pass through the legislature.
UCSA chose mental health as a focus for its two year #HowAreYou campaign, which started in 2015 and aims to increase diversity and access to student mental health services.
Adi said that as part of the campaign, UCSA released evaluations on mental health services at nine UC campuses based on access, diversity and outreach. UCLA received a C+ grade, while the average for all campuses was a C.
Adi added she thinks the evaluations helped start a conversation in the UC Office of the President and the state legislature. The UC announced in March it would hire 85 new clinicians across the system to increase access to mental health services, reduce wait times and complement outreach and prevention efforts. McCarty introduced the bill in the state assembly around the same time UCSA released its evaluations.
She said the veto surprised her because the bill passed through the legislature with bipartisan support.
Undergraduate student government External Vice President Rafi Sands said he thinks some lawmakers, including state Sen. Ricardo Lara, chose not to support students who need access to mental health services by removing specific funding provisions from the bill.
Adi said UCSA will meet in the upcoming weeks to discuss a course of action for the UCSA Board of Directors. She said she hopes legislators either vote to overturn the veto or reintroduce a similar bill next year in the new legislative session that specifies a funding source to address Brown’s criticisms of the bill.