Assemblyman Ken Cooley Introduces Bill to Improve Oversight of Mental Health Services Provided Behind Closed Doors

For immediate release:

RANCHO CORDOVA – Today, Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) introduced Assembly Bill 860 to improve accountability of mental health services in facilities inaccessible to the general public.

The Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission is charged with overseeing the implementation of California’s Mental Health Services Act, holding public mental health systems accountable, and ensuring positive outcomes for individuals living with serious mental illness.  Currently, the law requires that any location where the Commission conducts a fact-finding tour be open to the public.  However, many Californians with mental health needs receive services in locations that are not open to the public including locked mental health facilities, schools, jails, and prisons − making it difficult for the Commission to gather information about services provided behind closed doors and discharge its oversight duties effectively.

AB 860 lets the Commission visit non-public locations when gathering information in support of their duties.  The bill requires that information gathered from a non-public location be made available to the public and maintains that any meetings held or decisions made by the Commission be done in open locations so the public may attend and keep informed.

“The Commission’s work in effective oversight and accountability is critical to ensuring California’s mental health services provide positive outcomes including reducing incarcerations, school failure, unemployment, suicide, and homelessness for those living with mental health needs,” Cooley said.  “Allowing the Commission to gather information about services provided in locations that are not open to the public will go a long way in making sure mental health consumers receive the care they need, whether services are provided in public or non-public facilities.”

In response to the bill’s introduction, Commission Chair Tina Wooten added, “AB 860 will improve the Commission’s ability to monitor our mental health system, including whether our most vulnerable residents, people in locked facilities who often have had their rights involuntarily suspended, even if temporarily, are treated with dignity and respect and are receiving the care they need.”  She added, “The Commission appreciates Assemblyman Cooley’s leadership on this bill and commitment to public oversight and accountability.”

Assemblyman Ken Cooley represents the 8th Assembly District which includes the communities of Arden-Arcade, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, Rancho Murieta, Rosemont, Wilton and other portions of unincorporated Sacramento County.   For more information, please visit http://asmdc.org/members/a08/