Salas Bills to Improve Mental Health Services and Increase Healthcare Workforce Clear Legislative Hurdle

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Assemblymember Salas presenting in Assembly Health Committee

Bills address mental health for seniors, co-occurring disorders, and doctor shortage

SACRAMENTO – Yesterday, Assembly Bills (AB) 480, 1058 and 1759, authored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), passed out of the Assembly Committee on Health with bi-partisan support.

AB 480 would establish an Older Adult Mental Health Services Administrator to oversee mental health services for older adults, establish outcome indicators, integrate care, and standardize geriatrics training for mental health professionals. 

“One in five older adults experience mental health issues, but less than one-third of all older adults who need mental health care receive it,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Suicide rates for older adults are drastically increasing, AB 480 would help ensure that older adults receive the care they need.”

A study conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, with support from the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, found a number of challenges and deficiencies in the current behavioral health structure for older adults.

AB 1058 would establish a stakeholder process to develop and identify administrative and legal barriers to the delivery of integrated treatment for co-occurring substance use disorders (SUD) and mental health conditions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder, and vice versa.

“Research has demonstrated that integrated treatment programs for people with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse conditions effectively promote recovery,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Our current structure produces inefficiencies that interfere with access and quality care for patients. AB 1058 will help improve and streamline care for those suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders.”

The third bill, AB1759, which Assemblymember Salas successfully passed out of committee, will increase the healthcare workforce in underserved communities by increasing primary care physician residencies, expanding loan repayment programs, and improving outreach to low-income and underrepresented communities for students to enter health careers.  AB 1759 included a broad coalition of support from senior advocates, health providers, and hospitals.  This bill will appropriate $50 million from the General Fund to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development to invest in programs that increase the healthcare workforce in medically underserved and diverse communities.

“California is facing a looming health crisis with the severe and growing doctor shortage, particularly in areas like the Central Valley,” said Assemblymember Salas.  “As our state strives to increase access to health care, we must make significant investments in recruiting, training and retaining healthcare providers, especially in our most disadvantaged communities.”

According to a study by the California Future Health Workforce Commission, “the San Joaquin Valley’s long-standing health care professional shortages contribute substantially to its poorer health outcomes.” Furthermore, the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) recommends 60 to 80 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents, but the statewide average is only 50. The average number of primary care physicians is significantly lower in underserved regions like the San Joaquin Valley, where there are only 39 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. Assemblymember Salas also presented the corresponding budget request in the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services yesterday.

AB 480, AB 1058 and AB 1759 will be heard next in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

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Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Hanford, Corcoran, Delano, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Avenal, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.