ABC’s of your Health: Mental health services and delivery need urgent action for improvement

ABC’s of your Health
ABC’s of your Health

With the start of the new legislative session in Sacramento, state’s Senate and Assembly legislators are calling for urgent action to stop California’s mental health crisis by improving mental health services and delivery to those in need of the services.

Senator Jim Beall, who is chairman of both the Senate Mental Health Caucus and the Select Committee on Mental Health, is championship the effort with the introduction of three bills on Dec. 3 to increase and ensure mental health services and treatment.

“It’s no secret that access to integrated mental health services and provider shortages plague our state, resulting in deteriorated mental health outcomes for all Californians,” said Beall earlier this month.

The need for mental health treatment, therapy, and counseling is high in California and only three out of four Californians who have mental health needs receive treatment.

Joining Beall’s efforts are also John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, and Assemblymembers Dr. Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, Kansen Chu, D-San Jose as well as the Steinberg Institute, Mental Health America of California and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“The lack of integrated, accessible mental health services is one of the greatest humanitarian challenges we face and we must invest in mental health infrastructure to save many, many lives,” Beall said, adding that “early access to treatment is key.”

He said that “three-quarters of all mental health issues have their onset by the age of 24. Yet adolescents and young adults are the group least likely to receive mental health care.”

The three bills are:

▪ SB 10: which increases the effectiveness of mental health and addiction supportive services by establishing a state certification process for peer providers – people with lived experiences as family members, clients, or caretakers of individuals recovering from addiction or mental illness – who guide and help their clients.

▪ SB 11: Strengthens enforcement of state and federal mental health parity laws by requiring health care service plans and health insurers to submit annual reports to the state to determine if they are complying with parity laws. The information would be available to the public on the website of either the Department Of Managed Health Care or the Department of Insurance.

▪ SB 12 declares the intent of the Legislature to amend the existing Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63) to authorize the state and local governments to establish at least 100 drop-in centers to meet youths’ needs. They would be modeled after the headspace project, an Australian national network comprised of “one-shop stop’’ centers for youth to ensure they have the coping skills and a support system in place for a successful transition to adulthood. In California, 17 percent of high school students reported they have seriously considered attempting suicide; 9 percent reported they have attempted suicide one or more times.

“State Auditor Elaine Howle identified that counties have millions of dollars in unspent mental health funds and the state is projecting now a massive budget surplus,” Beall said. “With resources available and the need for comprehensive mental health so great, the time for legislation and legislators to act is now.’’

The legislators made clear that California must eliminate gaps in the delivery of mental health services.

“I think with the Mental Health Services Act and all the funding that’s available, redirecting, giving more focus, and getting things moving is so critical,” said Moorlach, who called for connecting mental health services to young people. “We can’t have $2.5 billion sitting in bank accounts languishing when we have so many families in need.”

“Our foster kids who are exposed to more trauma than most shouldn’t have to deal with the crisis of the moment by being penalized and being sent to a judicial system that is not ready to process them,” said Arambbula, who practiced medicine as emergency room doctor prior to entering politics. “Instead we should be meeting them where they are at by providing wrap-around services, a social worker and a crisis line.”

Chu said he supports having at least one mental health professional on school campuses.

“I believe the most central location to provide wrap-around services is at the school,” he said.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud