Behavioral and mental health is one of the biggest challenges facing our society. It knows no ethnic, regional, or economic boundaries. Social stigmas that come with an individuals’ condition cause many to suffer in silence, and society has been reluctant to bring this issue to the forefront of public discourse. Behavioral health conditions not only take a toll on the individual, but on their family and friends, their jobs and the economy, the healthcare industry, and in the worst of circumstance, victims of those who did not receive the help or treatment they needed.
While there is no single solution to address this growing issue in our society, elected leaders can support comprehensive care programs, early education and assessment, and wraparound treatment options for those who suffer from mental health and substance abuse problems.
In our own communities, we can work with local healthcare leaders and non- profit organizations to ensure access to care; encourage businesses and employers to offer services to their employees; support funding for Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to providers; support more school counselors so students have access to the help they need; and provide forums and workshops for children and parents to begin talking about mental health and substance abuse and to remove the stigma.
We can elevate the conversation and discuss how common behavioral health issues are in our society. Public education and community awareness are critical. We cannot destigmatize until we are comfortable having these conversations with our family, friends, public officials, and health care professionals. Community organizations and non-profits play a key role to help facilitate the discussion at the local level, and elected leaders can partner with them to do that without requiring a bill or bureaucracy first.
Since first elected office, I have taken an active role in promoting and supporting sound public policy to address behavioral health problems in our community. Specifically, I have voted for or authored the following bills or funding proposals:
AB 1893: Ensures that the Depart of Public Health is identifying and applying for federal funding opportunities to help prioritize maternal mental health in California.
AB 1971: Amends the state’s definition of “gravely disabled” to include medical treatment as a basic human need for those suffering from a serious mental illness, just as necessary to well-being as food, clothing or shelter.
AB 2193: Makes it a duty of OBGYNs who treat or attend a mother an child to screen for maternal mental health conditions and requires health plans and insurers to provide utilization data to their existing quality management programs and to sue the data to assure that services are readily available.
AB 2333: Establishes a behavioral health Deputy Director within the Office of Emergency Services to ensure individuals have access to mental and behavioral health services in the aftermath of a disaster.
AB 532: Allows courts to collaborate with outside organizations on programs to offer mental health and addiction treatment to individuals who are charged in a complaint that consists only of misdemeanor offenses or who are on probation for a misdemeanor offense.
AB 2443: Requires the Local Control and Accountability Plan for a school district to include a measurement and goals to the extent at which pupils have access to school psychologists or counselors to address mental health, conflict resolution and bullying.
AB 773: Helps address the shortage of mental health professionals by removing red tape in the licensing process.