In September, members of the NAMI/Mental Wellness Center Public Policy Committee met with individual Santa Barbara mayoral and city council candidates in anticipation of the upcoming election. Four of five mayoral candidates we contacted -- Hal Conklin, Angel Martinez, Cathy Murillo, and Bendy White -- responded to our invitation to meet. (We were unable to meet with Mr. White before the deadline for this newsletter). We also were granted interviews with Kristen Sneddon, 4th District City Council candidate, and Eric Friedman, 5th District candidate.
We began each meeting by highlighting the Cottage Population Health Listening Tour Survey, the responses to which identified mental health as the health concern of most significant need and urgency in the perception of stakeholders. Interestingly, this shocked none of the candidates. All those we met with were keenly interested in mental health issues and initiatives, especially those related to chronic homelessness, restorative policing, and services for children and youth. Cathy Murillo shared her perspective as Vice Chair of C3H (Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness) on the problem of chronic homelessness, voicing a commitment to the generation of more affordable housing, and housing options for persons with serious mental illness. Angel Martinez stressed the need for collaboration among city and county departments, hospitals, and non-profit organizations, and noted the role the local philanthropic community could play in funding valuable programs. Kristen Sneddon shared awareness of mental health issues of children and youth, and the need to expand mental health expertise in the schools, having been employed by Santa Barbara Community College and serving on the board of the Peabody School.Hal Conklin expressed strong interest in the information we had to convey, including Crisis Intervention Team training (CIT), and the critical housing need for homeless persons with disabilities. He is strongly supportive of restorative policing, having recently taken part in law enforcement “ridealongs.” Eric Friedman favored an approach to homelessness that focuses on referral to resources and treatment. Having served as Congressman Salud Carbajal’s aide covering mental health issues on the Board of Supervisors, Eric expressed a commitment to securing more intensive outreach to homeless persons downtown suffering mental illness. All candidates were keenly interested in Assisted Outpatient Treatment (known as Laura’s Law in California) as a program that reduces homelessness and incarcerations of persons with serious mental illness.
We in NAMI urge all Santa Barbara residents committed to mental health issues to vote in the November election. A small number of votes makes a big difference, given the relatively small number of votes traditionally case.
Thanks to Mari Mender, Linda Ness, Suzanne Riordan, Manny Casas, George Kaufmann, and Lynne Gibbs for meeting with the candidates.