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Ballot Measure to Change Mental Health in State Could Backfire, Cohen Says

In a story about the potential impact of Proposition 1, UCLA Luskin’s David Cohen discussed the implications of an effort to reform California’s mental health system. The statewide ballot measure is backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom as a step in solving the state’s homelessness crisis. But opponents say it would siphon money away from preventative mental health to add psychiatric institutions and promote involuntary treatment. Researchers like Cohen see involuntary or coerced care as counterproductive. “Few who review the existing evidence conclude that on balance, involuntary treatment improves the lives of those who experience it,” said Cohen, a professor of social welfare and associate dean. People contending with mental health issues can be traumatized by enforced treatment. “Being deprived of freedom is maddening. Being robbed of credibility is humiliating.” Plus, studies show that suicidal people who are institutionalized may actually be at heightened risk of self-harm upon discharge.


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