Special Needs Network, Inc.

SNN Asks Where’s the $13 Billion from California’s Prop 63?

(From L to R) LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Areva Martin, Assembly Member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and Former Assembly Member Steve Bradford during the 2014 Legislative Breakfast.

Special Needs Network will host an interactive legislative breakfast as part of its 9th Annual Tools for Transformation conference, to allow attendees to discuss autism, mental health and California’s Prop 63 funding.

Special Needs Network (SNN) will host its 9th Annual Legislative Breakfast on Friday, April 10 at 8:30 a.m. at the California African American Museum located at 600 State Drive in Los Angeles. The breakfast will feature elected officials: State Senators Isadore Hall and Holly Mitchell, as well as LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Assembly Members Jimmy Gomez and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.


This year’s breakfast will be held in conjunction with the California Assembly Select Committee on Mental and Behavior Health and Implementation of Prop 63. A panel of autism and mental health experts and providers, moderated by Assembly Member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Chair of the Assembly’s Select Committee, will explore the challenges and opportunities in implementing California’s Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63). Discussions will include how to expand funding opportunities for individuals with autism and other disabilities, as well as allocation of funding to communities of color and meeting the needs of individuals with mental and behavioral health challenges. Participants will be able to weigh in on the issues presented and interact with the speakers.


SNN’s Legislative Breakfast has become a staple event for the LA community and kicks off the nonprofit’s popular two-day Tools for Transformation parent and professional conference – which attracts more than 1,500 attendees. The breakfast will provide an open venue for corporate executives, community leaders, parents and citizens to discuss how we can come together to tackle issues for individuals with special needs and/or mental health challenges.


“Special Needs Network has been a trailblazing advocate for parents and children in Los Angeles County,” Assembly Member Ridley-Thomas said. “SNN’s network of committed women and men has long called attention to our state’s need to provide children with autism, ADHD and learning disabilities with all of the benefits they are entitled to receive by law.”


“They’ve waited long enough for proper levels of state and local funding for health and mental health care and support, and most importantly, fair and equitable public education funding resources to ensure that every child receives the learning support and instruction that enables them to grow, expand their knowledge and succeed in the future as adults.”


Assembly Member Ridley-Thomas reiterates that the hearing during the Legislative Breakfast will explore possible funding avenues through the Mental Health Services Act for autism and co-occurring mental health services. “This will help meet the needs of those who do not qualify for Medi-Cal, but need assistance in addressing developmental disorders and mental health illnesses,” he said.


The breakfast and informational hearing come at an ideal time following the release of several reports stating that implementation of Prop 63 has been problematic. Approved in 2004, Prop 63 was touted as a way to address serious mental illnesses in California but advocates and supporters have questioned how the more than $13 billion generated—from a 1 percent tax on income above $1 million—has been spent. The Associated Press reported that money was being spent on yoga classes for some San Francisco Department of Public Health workers or their family members who had sought mental health treatment. Other reports suggest that moneys have been spent on gardening programs.


The basic issue for the hearing is to determine if the money is actually going to people with serious mental illnesses and individuals with autism and co-morbid conditions such as depression, anxiety and ADHD.


“We know there are thousands of people out there who are still in need of assistance,” explains Areva Martin, Esq., the founder of Special Needs Network and lead organizer for the event. “Our goal during the breakfast and hearing is to figure out ways to expand access to ensure that taxpayer’s dollars are being used for those in need including children and adults living in low-income communities.”


“We want community organizations and providers to learn how they can access funds for their programs,” says Martin.


The Legislative Breakfast is one of several events throughout the month of April that SNN is hosting to help increase awareness about issues surrounding our children and families, particularly underserved families with special needs children. Since its inception, SNN has worked with more than 35,000 children and families and is known as California’s go-to organization for autism advocacy and supporting underserved populations, particularly the African American and Latino communities.


Attendees can register at To learn more about the Legislative Breakfast, or other upcoming autism awareness events, visit


SNN also invites anyone with questions or concerns about autism and other developmental disabilities to contact their office at (323) 291-7100 for information on available resources, programs and service providers.