Addressing and treating behavioral health issues, including mental health, substance use, intellectual disabilities, and co-occurring disorders, provides integrated healthcare services that better promote wellness and recovery for individuals, families, and communities.
The State of California has taken critical steps to increase access to behavioral healthcare by expanding the Medi-Cal program to cover 3.7 million Californians who were not previously eligible. While 34 states (including the District of Columbia) have taken advantage of the Medicaid expansion, as a federal policymaker, I believe that we must do more to encourage the remaining 17 states to expand their Medicaid programs. Ensuring that every American has healthcare coverage is the number one thing that the federal government can do to improve access to behavioral healthcare treatment.
Congress should also take action to help states expand the number of beds available for treatment at in-patient facilities. I recently voted for the IMD CARE Act (H.R. 5797) to help address this issue.
Additionally, Congress should do more to encourage young people to enter these fields, because we face an impending shortage of physicians for both primary and specialty care. That is why I am a strong supporter of federal programs, like the National Health Service Corps, Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the Conrad 30 Waiver Program, and the Title VII/VIII workforce development and diversity pipeline programs, which help to recruit a diverse workforce and encourage physicians to enter shortage specialties and to practice in under-served communities.
Public education, talking openly, and compassion are some of the most effective ways that we can reduce the stigma associated with behavioral health conditions. At the federal level, I have been a strong supporter of resources for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) public health and outreach programs that help to coordinate efforts to destigmatize these conditions and promote public education to help medical professionals, families, and communities better understand behavioral health issues.