This edition features information from a recent survey of youth behavioral health, as well as recommendations from the state for how to improve the provision of such services.
We also include coverage of some of the bills that have been filed for consideration this session. While some of these might not end up being considered when committees begin their work next month, they indicate lawmakers’ goals of fortifying Medi-Cal coverage, expanding reproductive and sexual healthcare, and more.
If you haven’t already, you can register here for our 2023 Northern California Health Policy Conference that’s coming up on May 23rd! We will release further details in the near future as we finalize panel topics and speakers—we’re thrilled for what is certain to be another valuable convening of some of Northern California’s top healthcare policy leaders!
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State of Reform
1. CalHHS presents findings from youth BH survey, issues 12 ‘calls to action’
CalHHS released its Youth at Center Report last month, which summarizes a survey of over 600 children, families, and communities about their experiences with and perspective of California’s behavioral healthcare system. The report outlined 12 calls to action, split between three broad categories: shift thinking, reimagine services, and transform systems.
Decoupling the criminal justice system from behavioral health and giving families more resources to support their children were among key recommendations. Many surveyed youth reported refusing to consult their parents or school counselors when struggling with their mental health, out of concern that they would overburden them or increase their stress. In response to this, the report recommends increasing resources for parents to manage their stress and heal from their own experiences.
2. Lawmakers, state agencies prioritize improving behavioral health
Lawmakers have proposed numerous bills for this session that aim to address the opioid epidemic, including legislation to require schools to possess opioid antagonists, create an opioid task force, and strengthen OUD treatment protocols for defendants in legal cases. The state is also continuing to prioritize behavioral health outside of the legislature. One of multiple recent examples is DHCS’s dispersion of $18 million in grants to support behavioral health careers.
Gov. Newsom recently announced the availability of $907 million in grant funding for bridge housing, which is designed to serve as transitional housing for individuals who are struggling with behavioral health conditions and/or are homeless. CDPH announced las week the awarding of $2.4 million to 29 counties to increase MAT access for justice-involved and Native individuals struggling with SUD. CDPH is currently considering RFP bids for a campaign it’s developing to reduce behavioral health stigma for youth.
3. Filed legislation aims to improve reproductive and sexual health
Multiple filed bills concern sexual and reproductive health, including Sen. Toni Atkins’s continued efforts to protect abortion rights through SB 385. This bill would allow physician assistants to receive training in order to perform abortions (which follows her successful bill from last year that allows nurse practitioners to provide the procedure).
Other legislation includes AB 659 to require HPV vaccines in schools, as well as SB 59 to increase menstrual product availability in schools and public restrooms. SB 339 aims to combat HIV by increasing PrEP availability. It would increase the allowed PrEP prescription from a 30-day supply to a 90-day supply, or beyond 90 days if certain conditions are met. Additional bills include AB 798 to prohibit female genital mutilation and AB 632 to require coverage of prostate cancer screenings.
4. Legislators file Medi-Cal-related bills
California has taken major steps to reform the Medi-Cal program in recent years, and this legislative session is no different. Among the numerous filed bills pertaining to Medi-Cal is AB 1690, a continuation of the ongoing effort to establish universal healthcare coverage in the state. This bill, however, is simply a declaration of intent to pursue the initiative, with a fully fleshed out bill expected to be introduced and pursued next year.
Some lawmakers want to expand the types of services that are eligible for Medi-Cal reimbursement, including AB 365 to require coverage of continuous glucose monitors to support diabetes care, AB 425 to require coverage of pharmacogenomic testing, and AB 576 to require Medi-Cal to fully reimburse providers for providing abortion-terminating medications. Other related bills include AB 586 to add climate change remediation to the list of Medi-Cal community supports and AB 564 to streamline Medi-Cal enrollment by allowing electronic signatures on enrollment forms.
5. Californians remain concerned about healthcare costs
The California Health Care Foundation released their 2023 California Health Policy Survey last week, which shows that Californians continue to be concerned about healthcare costs. In 2022, 52% of Californians reported skipping care due to high costs, 50% of which said their condition worsened as a result of foregoing treatment.
The survey reveals that 65% of Californians are “very” or “somewhat” worried about unexpected medical bills, and that the same percentage of individuals are worried about high out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Cost concerns particularly impact non-white populations, with 52% of Latin/X individuals and 48% of Black individuals reporting having medical debt, compared to 28% of white individuals.