March 13 (UPI) -- Seriously mentally ill and those at risk for mental illness have seen an uptick in the availability of necessary services in Los Angeles County following the passage of a special tax included under California's Mental Health Services Act, researchers at the RAND Corporation say.
This assistance resulted in reduced homelessness and psychiatric hospitalizations, and improved employment and wellbeing, researchers report in the new study, published Tuesday by RAND Corp., a nonprofit research organization, and UCLA.
In 2004, California voters approved Proposition 63, which created a 1 percent tax on all personal income over $1 million to provide expanded mental health services in the state.
Los Angeles County's population of 10.1 million people comprises 26 percent of the state population.
"We found evidence that the services created in Los Angeles County under the Mental Health Services Act are reaching the people they intend to help, and those people are benefiting from the services provided," lead author Scott Ashwood, a policy researcher at RAND, said in a press release.
From 2012 through 2016, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health provided prevention and early intervention services to almost 130,000 youths. Nearly 25,000 youth and adults also received intensive clinical and social services designed for those with serious psychiatric illnesses, including housing.
Researchers analyzed administrative data and studied two programs that received expanded funding from the state tax, looking for benefits of the new funding.
One program's aim was to prevent the onset of mental illness and the related negative consequences, reaching 130,000 people -- 65 percent of whom were new clients. While all clients of the program saw improved benefits, Hispanic and Asian youth saw significantly better outcomes than other groups.
The other program was a full-service partnership program that included a "housing first" approach to improve residential stability and mental health outcomes, specifically providing housing and other social services to clients with a severe mental health diagnosis, such as schizophrenia.
While many of these patients were homeless or had other significant issues, the researchers report that rates of homelessness and inpatient psychiatric hospitalization decreased tremendously and employment rates increased at the same time -- though they note the overall jobless rate among clients remains too high.
The researchers suggest continuing to reach out to at-risk and vulnerable groups, while continuing to measure outcomes and streamlining the services that best help program clients get their lives together.
"Helping young people can change the trajectory of their lives and potentially put them on a path where they experience less suffering, better relationships and more success in life," Ashwood said.