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Behavioral Health Champion: Assemblymember Jim Wood

As part of Behavioral Health Action’s in-depth interview series called Behavioral Health Champions, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Jim Wood, chair of the Assembly Health Committee, to discuss more solutions to California’s behavioral health crisis. Watch the full interview above and read some of his key quotes below:

  • Key quote: “Sadly, we see a lot of substance abuse issues tied with behavioral health issues. We’re not really doing a really good job of coordinating that… There’s been amazing people working on this for years. It feels like we’re finally getting the momentum to really address this holistically, and treat this as a part of the body, and not a separate entity.
  • Dr. Wood on stigma: “It’s not easy to seek help sometimes. We’ve made it not easy to seek help. Then, when you do seek help, it’s not easy to get the continuity of care you need. I’m excited that we are actually beginning to really address that in a positive way.”
  • On working with the BHA Coalition: “I think the numbers in my district, one in four patients at a federally qualified health center needed behavioral health care. More than half of the people incarcerated in county jails need behavioral health care. This is a problem that that really, really needs to be addressed. For the sake of the individual, and the families that are trying to help their loved ones.
  • Money matters: “I think it is an investment, and I think that’s important. So many times people look at health care, and these things, as a line item in a budget… If you don’t invest in finding ways to help treat people who are in the early stages of behavioral health problems, that could potentially lead to greater problems with substance abuse, or greater mental health or behavioral health problems. Might lead to more complicated, more expensive health care. I’m very prevention focused, and early intervention focus, because I think that’s the key to better outcomes.
  • On the current health care system: “There is a divide. I think it’s important that people really realize that. Traditional medical insurances struggle with how to provide mental health care for people. These are not conditions that are easily treatable in the typical medical model. Behavioral health and mental health issues require ongoing care sometimes. That’s not always the way that our medical system works really well.”
    • Remind me: In our conversation with Dr. Pan, he zeroed in on the same concept – that our health care system is not set up to treat chronic conditions. Watch here.
  • On statewide leadership: “We have a governor, Governor Newsom, who has a strong interest in health care. We are in a much better financial situation. We can begin to invest, and build upon, some of the great work that happened before. I’m very excited about that, and I think there’s tremendous opportunities ahead.”
  • Let’s talk about bills. Dr. Wood introduced AB 1175 this session to ease transitions between different systems of care. “Medi-Cal managed care plans provide certain level of care. If your needs become more acute, or you [experience] more severe challenges, then that transitions to the county. What happens then, is that you go from one system to another, one provider to another. That can be really detrimental to the person who’s built a relationship with a provider. What I’m trying to do, is find a way to bridge that, so that if someone’s level of care, level of need changes, that they don’t have that disruptive change in the provider.”

If you missed last week’s Behavioral Health Champion interview with Dr. Richard Pan, click here. Be the first to know about our latest Behavioral Health Champion by signing up for our newsletter here.

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