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San Francisco Officials Announce Plan For Universal Mental Health Care

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- City leaders in San Francisco on Tuesday morning announced a plan for the first universal mental health care system in the U.S.

SF supervisors want voters to decide if everyone who lives in San Francisco should be guaranteed mental health care

"We are still San Francisco. We have not lost our heart and soul. And we believe that everyone can live with dignity and wellness," said Supervisor Hillary Ronen at a rally announcing the proposal on the steps of city hall.

The proposed plan is called Mental Health SF. It would be a universal mental health and substance abuse treatment system that would offer psychiatric care and medication to any San Franciscan who needs it.

The care would include preventative care and follow-up visits. Experts say there is a strong connection between mental illness and homelessness.

"Unfortunately, too often, the only people we can call is the police," said Supervisor Matt Haney. "And the police have very few options. Because often they take people to psychiatric emergency services and almost half of the people that go there are released without any services at all."

The plan includes the construction of a new treatment center -- possibly at SF General -- that would be open 24-7 within the next three years. Backers think it would cost around $50 million a year to operate.

They're hoping some of the money to pay for the program will come from another proposal about to go before voters. It would tax new gross receipts on companies whose CEO's are paid 100 times more than the median of their employees.

The supervisors will introduce the proposal officially to the board on June 4th. If it makes it to the November ballot, it would only need a simple majority to pass.

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