5 Things California: Children & Youth Behavioral Health Initiative, Medi-Cal on the ground, Moving from awareness to action on health equity


Eli Kirshbaum


The 2022 Los Angeles State of Reform Health Policy Conference is this Thursday, Sept. 22nd! We’re so excited to see folks at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Airport this week.

Peruse the list of panels and speakers scheduled for the day, and if you haven’t already, there’s still time to register to be with us. We hope to see you there!

Thanks for your support,

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform 


1. Panel: The Children & Youth Behavioral Health Initiative

To address a pressing youth mental health crisis, California has invested an historic amount of money into improving its delivery of behavioral health services for its younger residents. The Children & Youth Behavioral Health Initiative has the potential to transform the state’s youth mental health system and will have impacts that are felt across the health sector.

To dive into the details of the CYBHI and how it will impact the health care landscape, be sure to attend this expert-packed panel. Join Melissa Stafford Jones, Director of the CYBHI at CalHHS, Alex Briscoe, Principal at California Children’s Trust, Christina Altmayer, Principal at HMA, Lucy Marrero, Director of Behavioral Health and Social Programs at Gold Coast Health Plan, and Hossam Mahmoud, Regional Chief Medical Officer at Beacon, for a robust conversation.


2. Panel: Medi-Cal on the ground

How are stakeholders being impacted by recent changes to the Medi-Cal program? What can we expect in the coming months as the program continues to evolve? This group of health policy leaders will discuss the current state of Medi-Cal, what their experience with the program has been like this past year, and more.

Grab a seat to hear from Bill Barcellona, Executive Vice President of America’s Physician Groups, Hector Flores, MD, Medical Director at Altais/Family Care Specialists Medical Group, and Dennis Cuevas-Romero, Vice President of Government Affairs at the California Primary Care Association, on this timely topic.

3. Panel: Moving from awareness to action on health equity

California is known for being a national leader in addressing health inequities. To evaluate the state’s recent progress and offer additional strategies for improving health equity, we’ve convened this group of folks with vast knowledge of the state’s health equity work.

Rafael Gonzalez-Amezcua, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Aetna Better Health of California, Mayra Serrano, Health Equity Director at Anthem Blue Cross, Gabriella Barbosa, Managing Director of Policy at the Children’s Partnership, and Veronica Flores, CEO of Community Health Councils, will conduct an in-depth discussion on health equity.


4. Q&A: Surgeon General Diana Ramos, MD

Gov. Newsom recently appointed Diana Ramos, MD, as California’s second-ever Surgeon General. As a Mexican American, she represents the 40% of Californians who are Hispanic and plans to use her position to further health equity in the state. In this Q&A, Ramos talks about her priority areas of behavioral and reproductive health, how heath equity ties into the Newsom administration’s work, and more.

She hopes to break down the stigma against mental health care, particularly among the Latino population. “Culturally, it may be taboo sometimes to say that there are mental health issues. I know in the Latino community, we don’t say that there’s depression. We say that we’re nervous. We use euphemisms. And so I think if we start to educate folks that mental health really is [an area] that can be supported with medication and counseling, we can change that perception.”


5. Update on key health policy in Sacramento

Several key pieces of health legislation have landed on Gov. Newsom’s desk recently. SB 912 requires commercial health plans and MCPs to cover biomarker testing in order to improve patients’ ability to monitor their conditions and receive more targeted, cost-effective treatments. SB 1139 requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to allow incarcerated individuals to make emergency phone calls when they or a family member is hospitalized for a serious medical condition.

Another bill awaiting the governor’s signature is AB 1880, which would require any appeal of a health plan’s denial to bypass utilization management (UM) to be reviewed by a qualified clinical peer. The bill’s supporters, including the California Rheumatology Alliance, say UM is a tool used by health plans to dictate the cost of medications without fully considering the needs of patients. Opponents, like the California Association of Health Plans, say UM protocols promote patient safety by incentivizing patients and providers to take a “measured approach” to taking certain high-risk or costly medications.