Upcoming California health bills concerning SUD, student health


Hannah Saunders


Despite committees not being scheduled to conduct the first meetings concerning health bills until March, lawmakers are already working on several health-related bills that were prefiled at the end of last year. These include the notable Assembly Bill 4, which would expand Covered California to all Californians, regardless of immigration status. 

AB 4 is the continuation of bill sponsor Asm. Joaquin Arambula’s (D – Fresno) long-term effort to make California the first state to have universal healthcare coverage.

Below, see some of the yet-to-be-taken-up health items in the legislature pertaining to the opioid crisis and student health.

Addressing the opioid epidemic

While the city of San Francisco has experienced a decline in opioid overdose-related deaths for the second year in a row, other Californian cities continue to experience an uptick in substance use disorder. 

AB 18 relates to controlled substances, and would require a person who is convicted of, or pleads guilty or no contest, to the sale, transport, furnish, administer, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, derive, process, and prepare various controlled substances to receive a written advisory, on the record and recorded on the abstract of conviction, of the danger of manufacturing and distributing controlled substances. The bill also states that if an individual dies as a direct result of the actions listed above, then the manufacturer and distributor may be charged with voluntary manslaughter or murder.

AB 19 would require individual public schools operated by school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to maintain at least two doses of naloxone hydrochloride, or other opioid antagonists, to provide emergency medical aid to individuals suffering or reasonably believed to be suffering from an opioid overdose. This bill would be a state-mandated local program, and the state would reimburse districts for certain required costs.

AB 24 would require a person or entity who owns, manages, or is responsible for various public establishments in the county that experience opioid overdoses to keep opioid antagonist kits on site. The kits would include an instructional poster and nasal spray that is readily accessible by only employees. This would be another state-mandated local program. Kits, which would be free, would also be restocked after each use.

AB 33 would establish a fentanyl task force to reduce the rates of use and overdose. The task force would identify and address the fentanyl crisis as part of the state’s opioid epidemic, and any future appropriations made for the purpose of implementing the task force should not exceed the unspecified dollar amount. Senate Bill 19 would also establish an “Anti-Fentanyl Abuse Task Force,” which would undertake numerous duties relating to fentanyl use, including collecting and organizing data on the nature and extent of fentanyl use in California, and evaluate approaches to increase public awareness about use. 

SB 10 would create a new requirement for training programs, on the use of emergency opioid antagonists for treating opioid overdoses, for school staff to be implemented on or before July 1st, 2024. It would require the California Health & Human Services Agency, in collaboration with the state’s Department of Education, to establish a working group on fentanyl education in schools to promote public education, awareness, and prevention of fentanyl overdoses. Outreach would be aimed at staff and students in schools.

SB 46 would amend the state’s Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 by preventing reasonable cause to believe that the defendant in a legal case will not use controlled substances in the future from being an indicator of an individual’s successful completion of treatment. This bill would also allow the court to order the defendant to complete controlled substance education and treatment, and would require the court or probation department to refer defendants to controlled substance education and treatment programs. 

Under SB 46, the county drug program administrator or representative of the court, and county probation department would be required to design and implement the approval and renewal process for education and treatment programs. A minimum of 20 hours of education and counseling, including information about how the use of controlled substances affects the body and the dangers of using would be required. 

SB 234 would require each public, elementary, and secondary school in the state to store unexpired doses of naloxone hydrochloride on school campuses at all times, and would ensure that at least two employees are aware of the opioid antagonist location. This bill would also require every campus of California Community Colleges, the California State University, the University of California, independent institutions of higher education, and private postsecondary schools to keep unexpired doses of naloxone hydrochloride on campus at all times, and would ensure that at least two employees are aware of the location. This bill would also prevent civil or criminal liability for any individual administering naloxone hydrochloride. 

SB 234 would also require every stadium, concert venue, and amusement park to store to obtain unexpired doses of naloxone hydrochloride on premises at all times, with at least two employees aware of the location. 

Student health

A portion of California’s prefiled healthcare bills relate to educational settings. AB 5 would ensure teachers and certified employees operated by school districts, county offices of education, or charter schools to have tools and training needed to support and meet the needs of LGBTQ+ pupils.

AB 10 would create state recommended guidelines and would require the Instructional Quality Commission to create policies and curriculum around body shaming, to be implemented by schools. 

While the country continues to see a rise in gun violence, AB 71 would require the governing board of school districts and charter schools to require a course in health education, for graduation from high school, to include instruction for bleeding control, which would commence in the 2025-2026 school year.

Under existing law, local educational agencies are required to identify, locate and assess students with exceptional needs and to provide them with free public education in the least restrictive environment. Existing law also allows parents, guardians, or local educational agencies of the student to audio record individualized education program team meetings. AB 87 would expand the authorization of audio recordings of these team meetings by parents, guardians, or local education agencies. 

AB 245 pertains to high school athletics, and under existing law, the California High School Coaching Education and Training Program includes training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid. This bill would revise the requirements of training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid by adding how to respond to the signs and symptoms of concussions, heat-related illness, and cardiac arrest to the training component of the program.