San Francisco introduces free mental health care program headed for November ballot

Some of San Francisco's leaders are pushing for an ambitious plan to to make sure mental heath care is available for everyone living in the city.

Ruben Morancy says his family has struggled with his brother's schizophrenia for years.

He says his brother would cycle from San Francisco General Hospital to jail, to the streets--never getting the long-term coordinated care he needed--meaning Morancy himself had to seek his brother out to help him.

"Driving around San Francisco looking for him, finding him, making sure he has enough money to eat," said Morancy.

On the steps of City Hall Tuesday, Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney unveiled their plan, crafted along with the support of California Assemblyman Phil Ting, for on-demand psychiatric care and medication for those in need. 

"Mental Health SF will create a 24 hour, 7-day-a week that will offer immediate care to any San Franciscan who needs it," said Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

The supervisors say the plan will make mental health care available to all, will create an office to coordinate that care-- and will expand long-term treatment to make sure those who are suffering from mental illness or substance abuse don't slip through the cracks.

"There's been a lot of talk about how San Francisco has lost its progressive edge; that we're no longer the city that creates innovative programs that allows everyone to live with dignity," she said. "We're going to create Mental Health SF, that is going to be the best and most progressive program in the country because we are still San Francisco; we have not lost our heart and soul and we believe that everyone can live with dignity and wellness."

If approved, Mental Health SF would be funded by a potential Excessive CEO Salary Tax, which would tax companies a 1 percent surcharge for companies whose CEOs makes 100 times more than its employees, a 2 percent surcharge for companies whose CEOS make 200 times more than their workers, and so on.

Supervisors estimate the proposed tax would raise $80 million annually. The tax would also be decided on by voters at a future election, needing a two-thirds majority to pass.

"And your CEO is making 100 times its typical worker in the same company, then the business itself will pay 0.1% surcharge on their gross receipts tax," said Supervisor Ronen.

Morancy says for now, his brother has stabilized, is taking his medication and is even attending school.

He says he supports the plan.

Hoping that other families won't have to struggle as his did, seeing loved ones homeless. "Those are just the people in the streets," said Morancy.

"There are people in their houses, in their bedrooms, in their workplace that are suffering immensely. But, they're embarrassed to talk about it."

Mental Health SF would be considered the first overhaul of the city's mental health care and substance use system in decades, according to supervisors.

The plan has already picked up the support of the district attorney and the public defender here in San Francisco. Four supervisors have also voiced their support.

The supervisors are expected to vote on Mental Health SF by the end of June. If the board puts it on the ballot, the voters of San Francisco will have their say in November.

BCN's Daniel Montes contributed to this report.