California Tax for Mentally Ill Is Going Toward Massage Chairs, Zumba Classes in SoCal | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Health & Nutrition

California Tax for Mentally Ill Is Going Toward Massage Chairs, Zumba Classes in SoCal

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Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 5:15 PM

click to enlarge State-sanctioned mental health: so hot right now. - ZUMBA.COM
  • Zumba.com
  • State-sanctioned mental health: so hot right now.
California Governor Jerry Brown is asking for another tax hike this November: He hopes the dead-broke people of this dead-broke state will have the heart to toss a few coins at our crumbling education system.

But how do we know our money won't end up paying for some bedazzled charter-school megagym?

A scary new Associated Press report shows how state health officials really spent the $7.4 billion fruits...

... of a millionaire's tax that voters passed in 2004. Proposition 63 vowed to shave 1 percent off the income of all Californians who earned more than $1 million a year, then put it toward preventing and treating mental illness.

Turns out the Department of Mental Health has a pretty lax definition of "mentally ill."

According to the AP, programs currently being funded by Prop. 63 money include lunchtime yoga classes for San Francisco city workers and $1 million in horseback-therapy sessions for Kings County.

How did SoCal counties stack up? Via the AP, our most embarrassing offenders:

LOS ANGELES: The Tri-City Mental Health Center, which serves Pomona, Claremont, and La Verne, received approval for $230,000 to develop student well-being programs expected to reach more than 100 people a year. The proposal included a plan for self-help, drop-in centers featuring massage chairs for relieving muscle tension, a meditation room and a biofeedback lab where students use computer software to learn breathing and relaxation techniques.

SAN DIEGO: The state approved $547,805 for the inaugural year of a program where homebound seniors receive daily meals from workers who also screen them for depression or suicidal thoughts.

RIVERSIDE: Received approval for a 12-week "mood management" course titled Mamas y Bebes that helps young Latina mothers create a healthy physical, social, and psychological environment for themselves and their infants. The course is one of eight parenting programs that together have an annual approved budget of $2,958,317.

SAN BERNARDINO: Has budgeted $8.1 million over three years for a "holistic campus" of three community centers that provide services like acupuncture, art classes, equine therapy, tai-chi and zumba to the general public. The recently-launched program is expected to reach about 7,000 people a year

As furious as we are about L.A. County's child massage chairs (then again, county health officials also hosted a condom-design contest this year; nothing can surprise us anymore), San Bernardino County really takes the cake.

Its "holistic campus" provider, Mental Health Systems, says it aims to serve "Native American tribes, Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latino populations, as well as ... gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals" through alternative programs like "Curanderos, Native American Drumming Rituals, acupuncture and acupressure, and even [an LGBT] prom."

All very lovely and preventative, yes. But how can the state justify this kind of pampering as homeless veterans are left to wither on the streets and the mental-illness rate in prisoners shoots past one-in-four?

An actual quote from the MHS website: "We're excited that we've been given permission to "play in the sandbox" and be as innovative and creative as we like... ."

What we wouldn't give to see Andrew Breitbart's face as he got wind of the taxpayer-funded Zumba© classes (yes, Zumba's press guide requires that we use a copyright symbol) tailored for minorities. And here we thought Zumba was reserved exclusively for douches!

"In the law, the money was to be focused on people with mental illness, not little boutique programs that made the county personnel feel good," Peter Mantas, who used to head the Contra Costa County Mental Health Commission until he quit in disgust, tells the AP.

Yeah -- what he said. You listening, L.A. County Mental Health Commission?

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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