I recently gave the keynote speech at the State of Reform Health Policy Conference in San Diego, one of the largest, most diverse gatherings of health care executives and policy makers in California. Health care is one of my passions, and as a member of the Assembly Health Committee, I was thrilled to be invited.
Mental health is a major topic. One in six California adults experience some form of mental illness, and two-thirds of children and adolescents suffering from depressive episodes go untreated. More empowerment for locals on the front lines of mental health treatment is a must. This year, legislation I authored to strengthen local mental health boards became law.
California faces a shortage of 4,100 primary care clinicians and will have only two-thirds of the psychiatrists needed in 2030. Two bills that would help by expanding the health care workforce and reducing the disparity in mental health services stalled in 2019. We’ll be revisiting these issues next year.
Addressing substance abuse is critical. Preliminary data indicate that more than 2,300 opioid-related deaths occurred in 2018 alone. Despite demonstrated success of medication-assisted treatments (MAT), far too few MAT providers have been certified. Despite overwhelming bipartisan support, my MAT funding request and 2019 bi-partisan legislation stalled, but the problem isn’t going away.
Health care and homelessness are directly linked. Addressing the issue requires interdisciplinary solutions involving housing policy, public safety, human services and more. Though homelessness results in three deaths per day in Los Angeles alone, it receives less attention than other, less deadly state emergencies. An all-hands-on-deck effort will be necessary to help resolve this major public health/safety issue.
Health care, homelessness, substance abuse, are among the state’s most pressing policy issues. California must make it the priority it should be, with much work necessary in 2020.