By Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media
Gavin Newsom signed two bills into law that expand mental health
coverage in California.
?The bills I am signing today will help Californians access
the behavioral health services they need to recover,? Gov. Newsom said.
?Earlier this year, I pledged to put these critical services within reach of
more Californians, through reforming our Mental Health Services Act and laws
that allow loved ones and service providers to ask courts to compel those who
need treatment into community-based outpatient care. Today, we do just that.?
SB 855 passed through the state legislature on the last day
of the session and was signed into law Sept. 25. The bill requires health
insurance companies to provide coverage for mental health and substance abuse
treatment deemed medically necessary.
time for every Californian to have access to comprehensive and preventative
mental and physical health care. SB 855 is a big step toward ensuring that in
California, mental health is taken as seriously as physical health. It?s time
for insurance companies to fully cover this essential treatment,? said State
Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).
SB 855 was co-authored by Wiener, State Senator Jim Beall
(D-San Jose), chair of the Mental Health Caucus, and Assemblymember Cecilia
This new law comes at a time when many Californians have
faced mental health challenges due to psychological stress caused by the
COVID-19 pandemic. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, released Aug. 14, found that 40 % of respondents
reported struggling with an adverse mental health condition in late June. Out
of about 5,400 respondents 30 % experienced symptoms of anxiety and depression
and 13 % had started or increased substance use to cope with emotions related
to the pandemic.
According to the CDC survey, psychological
stressors have a disproportionate effect
on Black and Brown people, essential workers, unpaid caregivers and young
adults. Also, low-wage earners were experiencing more anxiety
and depression than high-wage earners.
there are gaps in the law that have allowed insurance companies to deny what is
clearly medically necessary coverage for people experiencing mental health and
addiction challenges,? said Senator Wiener earlier this month.
There has been a long history of health insurance plans
providing better coverage for physical illness than for mental health.
According to the American Psychological Association, although federal parity
law requires that coverage for mental health and substance-use disorders must
be comparable to physical health coverage, the law does not require that all
plans include mental health and substance abuse coverage. Also, a health
insurance plan is allowed to exclude certain diagnoses.
The same day, the governor signed another bill, AB 1976, into law. That legislation, introduced by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), expands the use of court-ordered outpatient
treatment at the county level. It also prohibits counties
from downsizing those programs.
Assisted Outpatient Treatment demonstration project started by Laura?s Law has
shown for many years that we have the tools to provide effective,
community-based mental health treatment to those with the greatest need. As a
social worker I?ve long fought for the extension of these critical
services and expanding this program. Finally making it permanent will
ensure greater care for the people of California,? said Eggman.
of both bills praised the governor for signing them. Many of them
joined Eggman in pointing out that the new policies are
one should have to suffer from mental illness or substance use disorder without
support, resources and medical care. No one should have to forego mental
healthcare until they?ve deteriorated to the point where they?re in crisis and
in the ER. And no one should have to go into debt to pay for substance use
disorder or mental health treatment,? Wiener said in his