Behavioral health affects the healthcare system in a big way. Many people with behavioral health problems have not even been diagnosed and there is also the issue of co-occuring substance abuse and mental health disorders. The impacts to our system impact not only healthcare, but the criminal justice system, schools, families, workplaces. It is far better to treat a mental illness than spend enormous amounts incarcerating mental patients.
Access to treatments must be increased as the cost of not getting people into care is impacting our state in many ways (as mentioned above). Incentivising more providers and clinicians to become trained and certified in recognizing and treating mental illness. Eliminating ‘stigma’ associated with mental illness will bring more people into care. Increasing the availability of telemedicine and providers in rural areas will be helpful. In addition, boosting medi-cal rates for behavioral health/substance abuse disorder treatment will incentivize more providers to be trained. Medi-cal budgets must recognize the large impact of behavioral health issues on the system, including costs, hospitalizations, criminal justice, etc.
California can be a leader in destigmatization of mental illness by talking about it openly. If people understood how common it is, from maternal mental health issues to bi-polar disorders, etc., being able to feel free to see a provider and not feel shame will go along way. Also, being sure that primary care doctors and nurse practitioners are trained in recognizing the signs of behavioral health issues.
During my 6 years in the Assembly, I have been a strong advocate for patient access to treatment serving on the Assembly Health Committee, and as a member of the Mental Health Legislative Caucus. From 2018-2023 I will be serving on the Coordinating Committee of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute for a five year initiative dedicated to fostering connections between scientists and policy makers regarding the opioid and substance addiction crisis.