Berkeley Mental Health Commission passes 3-year spending plan

Daniel Kim/Senior Staff

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The Berkeley Mental Health Commission voted Thursday to approve a three-year plan for spending on programs for mental health in the Berkeley and Albany areas.

The plan calls for a total spending of about $16 million for a variety of programs including, but not limited to, an expenditure of about $2 million for transition-age youth, adult and older adult full service partnerships and about $200,000 for multicultural outreach and engagement.

Another notable item in the budget is funding — a little shy of $4 million — for adult clinic renovations and $400,000 for the “to be determined” new innovations projects.

Since it was passed in February 2012, the Innovations Plan has created a community empowerment program for African Americans, services for former offenders, cultural wellness strategies for Asian Pacific Islanders and support for LGBT “in community agencies.”

According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, the budget will be voted on by City Council in July and if passed will begin implementation immediately.

The commission, which met at the North Berkeley Senior Center, accomplished its first few agenda items quickly.

Jenne King, current vice chair of the Mental Health Commission, or MHC, was unanimously voted in as commission chair. Her nomination was given by commission member Shirley Posey and seconded by commission member Carole Marasovic.

Debate on whether or not to expand public comment stalled as commissioner Shelby Heda’s proposition to allow public comment throughout the meeting could not find a second. King later suggested that technology should be implemented to make public comment more accessible.

The commission stated that an expansion of mental health services to marginalized communities is a priority for their budget.

MHC secretary Karen Klatt cited an overrepresentation of usage of mental health services by the African American community as a cause for concern, the roots of which deserve investigation.

Klatt presented extensively on the expansion of services for youth. In addition to an almost $600,000 worth of full service partnerships for children, the plan includes about $100,000 per year for high school youth prevention programs, which provide students with individualized resources to prevent self-harm.

Berkeley Mental Health Division manager Steven Grolnic-McClurg also cited pilot programs within Berkeley Unified School District such as Trauma Informed Care. The mentorship program teaches how to be an effective mentor or aide and is expanding throughout the district, according to Grolnic-McClurg.

In an email, BUSD Director of Student Services Susan Craig, agreed with that assessment and said the programs “should be expanded.” She added that BUSD “values its partnership with Berkeley Mental Health.”

Commission members cited the subject matter of an op-ed in The Daily Californian on the veracity of mental health problems at Berkeley High School as cause for concern. Similar concerns were expressed at the meeting by the Berkeley High School Youth Commission as a reason for greater action from the MHC.

Craig said in the email that “the needs for mental health services for students at Berkeley High are far greater than the services available.”

The MHC stated that it hopes the plan can effectively help with the situation at Berkeley High School and in the city at large.

Contact Patrick Boldea at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @testeapteteroma.

A previous version of this article incorrectly cites Public Information Officer Charles Burress as the source of quotes which should be attributed to BUSD Director of Student Services Susan Craig.