Berkeley Mental Health Commission talks annual budget, draft of motion against spit hoods

A few people sitting around a large table during a meeting.
Clara Rodas/Staff

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The Berkeley Mental Health Commission discussed the city Mental Health Division’s annual budget and a motion against the usage of spit hoods as a detainment method during its regular meeting Thursday night.

The fiscal presentation outlined the commission’s expenses for fiscal year 2018. City of Berkeley mental health manager Steven Grolnic-McClurg headed the presentation, and Leah Talley, interim deputy director of the Berkeley Health, Housing and Community Services department, spoke about changes to the city’s software.

“The Mental Health Division is mostly funded with special funds,” Grolnic-McClurg said. “The three main ones are 1991 realignment, the Mental Health Services Act and Medi-Cal.”

The majority of the division’s funding comes from the Mental Health Services Act, or MHSA, according to the presentation. To expand mental health services, MHSA designates a 1 percent tax on people earning incomes more than $1 million.

From this, 1.76 percent of all monthly incoming tax payments transfer to MHSA, with the funds then distributed to various counties and the city of Berkeley. Two-year-long annual adjustments and the small number of contributing taxpayers, however, affect the amount of funding the division receives.

“One of the most important things … about MHSA is that it can be incredibly volatile,” Grolnic-McClurg said. “If millionaires did much worse or didn’t do as well comparatively to everybody else, we’re going to lose a lot of money.”

The presentation also outlined the division’s budgeting process. For fiscal year 2018, the mental health division’s actual revenue was $15.7 million and its expenditures totaled $14.12 million.

The last part of the presentation focused on the switch from Superion public sector software to the enterprise resource management application record-keeping system.

“Before, we had a code for every single little project, so we ended up with arms and arms of code,” Talley said. “Once you have everything set up the way you want, it’s easier to track and to extract data.”

The commission also presented a draft for a motion requesting that Berkeley City Council adopt a resolution against the use of spit hoods by the Berkeley Police Department. The draft described spit hoods as reminiscent of “death squads” that send a message of “hoodings” as normalized behavior.

Mental Health Commission members also discussed requesting a presentation on the reasoning and training methods used by BPD regarding spit hoods. The commission then voted to refer the draft to the Accountability Subcommittee for further development.

“I’m hearing all the levels of concerns that come up for each one of us as human beings,” said commission chair Boona Cheema. “I want us to be able to one, take our time, and two, send something that might catch someone’s attention.”

Contact Clara Rodas at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ClaraRodas10.