Mental health experts watch Governor Brown, worry Brown may eliminate CalWorks

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Jerry Brown (L) is sworn in as the 39th governor of California by California Chief Justice Tani CAntil-Sakauye (R) as Brown's wife, Anne Gust-Brown (C), looks on January 3, 2011 in Sacramento, California.

CalWorks is designed to get families off welfare and back to work. Former Governor Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating the program entirely to help close California’s budget gap. Public health advocates are worried that new Governor Jerry Brown may go through with that idea.

CalWorks recipients who suffer from emotional problems may tap into the program’s mental health service component to help them get back on their feet. “If you’re so depressed you can’t get out of bed, it’s pretty hard to go get a job.”, says Dr. Susan Mandel. Mandel says people with phobias or substance addictions also qualify.

She oversees the Southland’s largest chain of outpatient behavioral health care facilities, Pacific Clinics. That organization staffs more than 75 locations in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Mandel says its psychological treatments and support groups help to reduce hospitalization and incarceration. “You increase education and you increase employment. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say if you put money into a program and you try to treat people, they get better.”

If programs like this disappear, Mandel says she’s worried that people with emotional or mental problems may end up homeless or in jail. Welfare directors consider CalWorks one of the most successful social programs in California history.

Eliminating it could return about $160 million a year to the state’s general fund. California's deficit could top $28 billion. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to unveil his budget plan on Monday.

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