Salas Calls for Statewide Mental Health Director for Seniors in New Legislation

Published:
AB 383 Picture Info Graphic


SACRAMENTO –Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) commended the advancement of Assembly Bill (AB) 383, which passed unanimously with bipartisan support out of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care. AB 383 would establish an Older Adult Mental Health Services Administrator to integrate, improve and increase mental health services for older adults.

“California has a rapidly aging population where one in five seniors face mental health needs that we must take proactive steps to address,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Older adults face significant challenges in receiving mental health care and AB 383 will help ensure that these critical health needs for older adults are met.”

In 2011, due to drastic budget cuts, the position within the California Department of Aging – the Geriatric Mental Health Specialist – who was responsible for overseeing mental health services for older adults. However, this position no longer exists after state budget cuts in 2011 eliminated funding for the geriatric mental health specialist.

“The leadership position proposed in AB 383 is critical to address the well documented unmet needs of vulnerable older adults. Right now, no one has the responsibility to help the state system become more responsive to the needs of older Californians,” said Janet C. Frank, DrPH, Faculty Associate at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, who led the first study of how the MHSA supports an Older Adult System of Care for Mental Health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five older adults experience mental health concerns. However, less than one-third of all older adults in the United States who need mental health care receive it. Undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues have a serious impact for older adults and their loved ones. From 1991 to 2017, California saw a 58 percent increase in the number of suicides for those aged 65-84, and a 50 percent increase for those 85 and older (compared with a 14.8 average increase statewide across all age groups). Suicide rates are particularly high in rural parts of California where access to mental health care is severely lacking.

AB 383 would establish an Older Adult Mental Health Services Administrator position to focus on prioritizing geriatrics training for mental health professionals, improving services, and standardizing needs throughout California.

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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.