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More than 200 Californians with severe mental illnesses have found housing under a new state program, but changes are needed to achieve its goal of helping 10,000 homeless mentally ill persons with housing by 2027, a new legislative report says.

The program, financed primarily from proceeds of a 1 percent income surtax on very high income taxpayers, is aimed at creating "permanent supportive housing."

Initially, the program has a $400 million commitment of surtax funds that otherwise would have been spent by counties on direct services to the mentally ill. That's supposed to finance 2,500 units of housing. The report from the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes says that while urban counties have moved aggressively to create housing, the program has lagged in small rural counties whose allocations of mental health funds are small and whose officials lack experience in housing development.

The report recommends that rules governing the program be relaxed in the 11 smallest counties to make it easier for them to apply the housing funds.

The Office of Oversight and Outcomes was created by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and staffed largely with ex-Capitol reporters. Steinberg was the chief author of the 2004 ballot measures that imposed the surtax on those with incomes over a million dollars and dedicated its proceeds to local mental health services.

The report, written by Nancy Vogel, a former Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times reporter, can be found here.


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