New Tools Focus on Transparency


By Elisa Bupara
MHSOAC Communcations

The launch of the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission’s new Transparency Suite couldn’t happen at a better time.

With the State Department of Finance projecting more than $2 billion for Mental Health Services Act (MHSA)-funded county programs, counties have told the Commission that they are eager for more technical assistance to improve the effectiveness of those programs.

Data from the Transparency Suite will allow California counties, mental health consumers and their families, policymakers, advocates, lawmakers and others to share knowledge that can potentially improve mental health outcomes for California residents in need of services.

In addition to providing access to information on MHSA-funded programs, the Transparency Suite makes it much easier for Californians to understand data once deemed too complicated to comprehend.

“The Transparency Suite will allow counties to learn from one another and to really determine whether their services and programs are fulfilling their mandate to improve the mental health of Californians,” said Brandon McMillen, co-project lead. “The overarching vision of the MHSA Transparency Suite is to take information and organize it in ways that allow the public to draw valid conclusions from the data.”

Furthermore, the Transparency Suite provides greater insight into Full Service Partnerships, which are the largest MHSA-funded programs that address the needs of individuals with the most severe mental health needs.

California voters approved Proposition 63 in 2004, which imposed a one percent tax on incomes above $1 million. The goal of the Mental Health Services Act is to transform the mental health system while improving the quality of life for Californians living with a mental illness.

“What is so unique about the Commission’s new data transparency suite is that I can readily see how MHSA funds are being spent,” said Elizabeth Estes, Founder, Breaking Barriers. “I can also easily identify the types of mental health services being offered in each county and, equally importantly, which client mental health outcomes are being measured.  This tool is an invaluable resource for stakeholders, advocates, and researchers. It allows us to identify programs being implemented statewide and will help us work to ensure that MHSA funds are being leveraged to effectively support the most vulnerable in our society.”

Components of the Transparency Suite:

The MHSA Transparency Dashboard is the new home for all online MHSA data transparency tools. The page provides high-level statistics on each county’s service need indicators as well as MHSA budgets, programs offered and program outcomes.

The Fiscal Reporting Tool which helps visualize MHSA finances. It allows users to explore county-reported revenues, expenditures, unspent funds and trends.

The Program Reporting Tool provides an inventory of all MHSA programs. Users can search for, and compare, up to three programs at a time, side-by-side.

The Full Service Partnerships (FSP) Dashboard includes data on money, clients, and outcomes for MHSA-funded FSP programs. These are integrated, “whatever it takes” approaches to serving individuals with severe mental illnesses. The dashboard provides information on percent of expenditures of FSP programs, percent of clients tracked and assessed, percent of FSP service days by client age, and breakdown of disenrollment reasons.