Thesis

A policy analysis of California's Mental Health Services Act

Thesis (M.S., Criminal Justice)--California State University, Sacramento, 2016.

Over the years, policymakers have struggled to offer adequate mental health services and treatment to those who suffer from a mental illness. Those who are diagnosed with a mental illness, tend to be legally involved with the criminal justice system. In order to offer services and treatment to those in need, California voters passed the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) in 2004. The goals of the act were to reduce the legal involvement of individuals using MHSA services and programs. This study is a policy analysis examining whether California’s MHSA is decreasing arrest and incarceration rates for individuals utilizing its services. 
 Secondary data were accessed through various government and county websites. Nine California counties were selected using purposive sampling. Data were analyzed to determine whether or not the county decreased the legal involvement for those who were utilizing its programs and services offered by the county. For the purpose of this study, legal involvement is defined as arrests and incarcerations. 
 The data indicate that California’s MHSA is decreasing arrest and incarceration rates for individuals who are enrolled in MHSA programs and services. A majority of the counties sampled demonstrated a decrease in legal involvement for its participants. The findings also show which counties succeed and which counties need more assistance in the legal involvement aspect of the MHSA. The data clearly show that each county implements their MHSA programs differently from one another, each having their own strength and weaknesses. Overall, California’s MHSA is decreasing the legal involvement for individuals utilizing its services.

Over the years, policymakers have struggled to offer adequate mental health services and treatment to those who suffer from a mental illness. Those who are diagnosed with a mental illness, tend to be legally involved with the criminal justice system. In order to offer services and treatment to those in need, California voters passed the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) in 2004. The goals of the act were to reduce the legal involvement of individuals using MHSA services and programs. This study is a policy analysis examining whether California’s MHSA is decreasing arrest and incarceration rates for individuals utilizing its services. Secondary data were accessed through various government and county websites. Nine California counties were selected using purposive sampling. Data were analyzed to determine whether or not the county decreased the legal involvement for those who were utilizing its programs and services offered by the county. For the purpose of this study, legal involvement is defined as arrests and incarcerations. The data indicate that California’s MHSA is decreasing arrest and incarceration rates for individuals who are enrolled in MHSA programs and services. A majority of the counties sampled demonstrated a decrease in legal involvement for its participants. The findings also show which counties succeed and which counties need more assistance in the legal involvement aspect of the MHSA. The data clearly show that each county implements their MHSA programs differently from one another, each having their own strength and weaknesses. Overall, California’s MHSA is decreasing the legal involvement for individuals utilizing its services.

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