Historic Mental Health Advances

This session, I am honored to be recognized as a “Mental Health Super Hero” by the Steinberg Institute, because of my work on mental health policy, advancing mental health parity to physical health and working to expand access to care.  In addition I supported 9 bi-partisan bills, which were all forwarded to the Governor for his signature. 

I co-authored three of these bills, signed by the Governor on September 25th. Senate Bill 855 (Wiener) expands Californians’ ability to obtain treatment for substance abuse and mental health disorders by requiring insurers to pay for medically necessary treatments on parity with physical health. SB 803 (Beall) creates a certification process for peer support specialists to help persons going through mental health challenges, and AB 2112 (Ramos), supports regional and local efforts to address suicide prevention.

I also joined a bi-partisan majority to support legislation requiring board-and-care homes serving those with severe mental illness to notify counties of any planned closures. Other legislation requires insurers to provide psychiatric consultation to primary care physicians providing mental health care for children and mothers. Laura’s Law, authorizing court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment for mentally ill individuals in participating counties will now become permanent and all counties will be required to participate, unless they formally opt out.

The growing problem of homelessness, heavily impacted by substance abuse and mental illness, will be addressed through creation of a new cabinet position to coordinate and consolidate programs throughout the state. Legislation expanding the ability of Nurse Practitioners to treat patients, including the mentally ill, along with a bill creating a grant program expanding community-based responses to crisis situations, frequently caused by mentally ill individuals, all now await the Governor’s signature.

Should each of these bills become law, the result will be some of the most significant changes to California’s mental health policies in decades.