California health bills we’re watching this session
Several new health-related bills were introduced in the state legislature this session. While this isn’t a comprehensive list of health care bills on the move so far this year, these are a few of the bills we’re watching related to caregiver programs, HIV legislation, juvenile behavioral health, and telehealth. Here’s what we’ve got our eye on:
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This bill would establish a three-year Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Caregiver Pilot Program, which would expire on Jan. 1, 2026. This program would be similar to currently-existing dementia caregiver education programs in the state like Savvy Caregiver and Savvy Caregiver Express, which educate family members taking care of relatives with dementia. The new program would be tasked with expanding evidence-based dementia caregiver education programs and reaching specific underserved communities. The program would also award grants to 10 sites throughout the state in need of dementia caregiver funding. The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-46th District).
SB 859 would require the Secretary of California Health & Human Services, as well as the Chief of the Office of AIDS to develop a master plan for treating HIV, Hepatitis C, and AIDS. While current law requires the Department of Public Health to institute plans to curb the spread of venereal disease and to treat those with these illnesses, there isn’t a statewide master plan outlining how to treat the disease on a wider scale. According to an Office of AIDS report from 2016, the number of Californians diagnosed with HIV jumped 5.4 percent between 2012 and 2016. The same report states the number of deaths due to HIV also increased between 2012 and 2016 from 1,683 to 1,718. The Office of AIDS and the Health & Human Services Agency would also be required to establish an HIV, HCV, and STDs Stakeholder Committee that would work with both of these state departments to create the master plan. The California Health & Human Services Agency would have to submit reports to the legislature about the master plan every year starting Oct. 1, 2021 until Oct. 1, 2030. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Scott Weiner (D-11th District), Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-14th District), Assemblymember David Chiu (D-17th District), Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-78th District) and Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-17th District).
AB 2018 would require the Department of Education to institute new protocols for referring students with mental illness to treatment services. In developing these protocols, officials at the Department of Education would have to consult with school teachers and administrators and upload the protocols to its website once they are developed. This bill addresses the lack of referral services in California schools for students with mental illness, who make up 20 percent of children in the state, according to the bill. An estimated 80 percent of these children are undiagnosed and are not currently receiving treatment, leading to lower educational achievement and increased negative life outcomes, the bill goes on to say.
Enacting the protocols is dependent on any money appropriated to their implementation in the state’s annual budget. Federal money and private funds could also be used to enact the student mental health referral protocols. The bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-45th District) and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-70th District).
This bill would allow a federally-qualified health center or rural health clinic to better utilize telehealth technologies to perform “visits” between a physician and a patient. The technology that can support these types of telehealth visits include transmission of digital images and videos or medical documents through electronic communications systems like e-mail or video. The bill stipulates that face-to-face in-person appointments between a health care provider and a patient are not required to bill for medical services rendered on a telehealth basis. This bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-32nd District).