Los Angeles County Supervisor for District 5 Kathryn Barger braved a cold last week to deliver the Morning Keynote at our 2021 Los Angeles State of Reform Health Policy Conference. The supervisor for the county’s largest district spoke with State of Reform Host DJ Wilson about the Board of Supervisors’ public health leadership during COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy, mask mandates, and more.
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Barger is working with the state to reform its mental health laws and “adjust them to meet the needs of today.” She is calling on the state to request an institutions for mental disease (IMD) waiver exclusion from the federal government so mental health facilities with 16 or more beds can receive reimbursement. This is critical, she says, in addressing the bed shortage in LA county’s mental health facilities.
“We have a huge deficit of beds in LA county for mental health and it is crippling our system. So I’m hoping the state will engage more with us on working with the federal government to lift that IMD waiver to allow us to get reimbursement at many of our facilities … It’s time for us all to get on the same page and recognize that we need to build capacity.”
When it comes to wearing masks and getting vaccinated, Barger believes trusting the medical community’s guidance is essential.
“I think we need to recognize that there is a lack of trust in government right now as it relates to COVID …
I’m very proud to say I’m going to the expert … In order to really understand how the policy impacts the system, you’ve got to talk to the people that are at the line doing it, and I think in public policy, especially in government, we tend to not recognize that actions have consequences. So it’s important to bring the experts into the system for the debate in order to put together a policy that makes sense.”