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California primary: Prop 1 would overhaul spending on homelessness, mental health

Prop 1 involves tradeoffs between shelter for homeless and mental health resources
Prop 1 involves tradeoffs between shelter for homeless and mental health resources 06:20

The most consequential measure on the March primary election ballot in California might be Proposition 1. The $6.3 billion dollar bond measure is a key part of Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to create drug and mental health treatment beds.

If approved by voters, Prop. 1 would massively overhaul how the state spends billions in the battle to end the homeless crisis. Critics claim it diverts billions away from already effective mental health services.

Whatever happens with the measure, there's no question the issues of homelessness and substance abuse need to be addressed. CBS News Bay Area spoke to someone who tragically knows what can happen when the right resources aren't available.

Ranesha Moreno gets off work as a medical assistant at the same time every day. Just as one job ends, the next one begins. Her life is full.  But she always finds time to check in with the people who matter the most, her kids.

"It's really important for me to make sure that my kids know that I am there for them so I actually play Roblox with them every night. And it's kind of become our habit, and it's become a way for us to connect…it's when all the secrets come out," Moreno said.

She's seen what can happen when that connection is lost. Moreno is one of five kids. Growing up she watched her youngest brother Salim struggle from what she believes was undiagnosed mental illness.

"He never really got the help that he needed. Part of that was that there were no real resources, the only resources were really punitive, so it never really stuck and it didn't really help him," she recalled.

Salim was addicted to drugs and would often disappear, winding up either in jail or on the streets. He died a few years ago.

Mental illness runs in her family, but as a Black woman, she felt like getting help was never an option.

"I don't need a therapist, I don't need medication. My grandmother raised a strong Black woman. That's what we do, we figure it out and we keep pushing forward. But I think as I dealt with it and started to see the symptoms in my daughter that's when I realized it was time to break the generational trauma," Moreno said.

Politics is usually the last thing on her mind. But Prop. 1 hit close to home.

"Having the resources to get help for substance abuse and mental health illness is the difference between life and death and I think even for my brother. If there were built in resources to keep him somewhere for 90 days or six months whatever it may be, he could be alive today," she said.

Kate Brady is the board chair for the San Francisco branch of NAIMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Her group helped write Prop. 1, but even she admits the issue is complicated and debate in her local chapter has divided the community.

"We have so many bills on housing and they've never really gotten very far and I'd like to see this money come from elsewhere and maintain the level of community health care," Brady told CBS News Bay Area.

Back home with Moreno, after her family is taken care of, it's time to start her other fulltime job. She is getting a degree in psychology at the University of San Francisco, so she can be a lifeline to someone else who might be struggling and wants help from somebody like her.

"I want people to know you can be vulnerable with me and I'm not going to judge you because more than likely we had the same childhood, we had the same experiences and I understand the trauma that comes with that and I'm hoping we can overcome it together," she said.

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