The Kennedy Forum and the Steinberg Institute have partnered to increase access to mental health and addiction care in California through SB 855.

BACKGROUND

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, America was facing a serious mental health and addiction crisis:

  • Over 150,000 Americans died due to suicide, alcohol, or drugs in 2018.
  • In California, there was a 12.7% increase in the drug overdose rate from 2018 to 2019, more than in all but five states.
  • Nearly 1 in 6 adults in California currently experience mental illness, and 1 in 24 have a serious mental illness that makes it difficult to carry out major life activities.
  • One in 13 children in California has an emotional disturbance that limits participation in daily activities.

Experts agree, the isolation, unemployment, trauma, anxiety, and grief caused by COVID-19 are taking a profound toll on Americans’ already poor state of mental health. Not surprisingly, calls to crisis hotlines have increased dramatically. Other red flags:

  • According to the Census Bureau’s emergency weekly survey of U.S. households that took place at the end of April, a third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression. Rates of anxiety and depression were far higher among younger adults, women and the poor. Nearly four in ten Californians are now showing signs of clinical anxiety, or depression, or both.
  • According to May data from Mental Health America’s online screening program, more than 88,000 additional people have developed anxiety or depression as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than 21,000 depression screeners reported thinking of suicide or self-harm on more than half of the days.
  • The American Psychological Association’s latest “Stress in America” report showed stress levels have risen to numbers not seen since the Great Recession.
  • Alcohol sales spiked in late March, rising 55 percent compared with the same period a year earlier.
  • Past research has shown that for each 1 percentage point increase in unemployment, suicide rates can increase between 1% and 1.6%. California has had 4,452,894 unemployment claims since mid-March—the most in the nation.

Some models estimate that California alone could suffer over 22,500 additional deaths of despair (i.e. deaths from suicides, overdoses, alcohol poisoning, or liver disease caused by alcohol) due to a COVID-19 recession.

HOW CAN THIS BE PREVENTED?

Now, more than ever, Californians must be able to get help through their health insurance plans without facing tremendous out-of-pocket costs.

By holding insurers accountable for equal coverage of mental health and addiction treatment services, Senate Bill 855, authored by Senator Scott Wiener, will increase access to care for families across the state. It is an essential component of California’s COVID-19 recovery:

  • Insurers often deny coverage of treatment as “not medically necessary,” using flawed guidelines that are designed to cut costs. SB 855 would require them to make coverage determinations using nationally recognized standards of care.
  • To achieve the best outcomes, mental health and addiction concerns must be addressed before stage four. Health insurers don’t deny coverage for people seeking cancer screenings. Why should it be any different for someone seeking help for depression, an eating disorder, or alcoholism? Early interventions are key to long-term recovery.
  • In addition to helping Californians access care, SB 855 will reduce the enormous costs to Medi-Cal and other public programs associated with untreated mental health and substance use disorders, which can sometimes lead to homelessness or disability. Consider that for every $1 spent on substance use treatment, there is approximately $7 in monetary benefits to society.

TAKE ACTION

If SB 855 doesn’t pass, the critical issue of increasing access to mental health and addiction care will once again move to the back burner. Time is of the essence.

If you live in the districts of Assemblymembers Wood, Mayes, Bigelow, Bonta, Burke, Carrillo, Flora, Limón, McCarty, Nazarian, Ramos, Rodriguez, Santiago, and Waldron—who sit on the Assembly Health Committee—please contact them to say SB 855 is important to you.

Assemblymember Wood represents California’s 2nd Assembly District, which comprises all of Del Norte, Trinity, Humboldt, and Mendocino counties, plus northern and coastal Sonoma County, including the northern half of Santa Rosa. Click here to contact Assemblymember Wood. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Mayes represents California’s 42nd Assembly District, which includes the cities of Banning, Beaumont, Calimesa, Desert Hot Springs, Hemet, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Redlands, San Jacinto, Twentynine Palms, and Yucaipa. Click here to contact Assemblymember Mayes. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Bigelow represents California’s 5th Assembly District, which includes Alpine county, Amador County, Calaveras County, El Dorado County, Madera County, Mariposa County, Mono County, Placer County, and Tuolumne County. Click here to contact Assemblymember Bigelow. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Bonta represents California’s 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. Click here to contact Assemblymember Bonta. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Burke represents California’s 62nd Assembly District, which includes the cities of Inglewood, Hawthorne, Lawndale, El Segundo, and Gardena, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Venice, Del Rey and Hyde Park, and the communities of Del Aire, West Athens, Lennox, Westmont, and Marina del Rey. Click here to contact Assemblymember Burke. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Carrillo represents California’s 51st Assembly District, which includes close to 500,000 residents in the City of Los Angeles, unincorporated East Los Angeles and includes some of the most historic and iconic communities in the city. Click here to contact Assemblymember Carillo. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Flora represents California’s 12th Assembly District, which includes San Joaquin County (Escalon, Lathrop, Manteca, Ripon), and Stanislaus County (Hughson, Modesto, Oakdale, Riverbank, Turlock, andWaterford). Click here to contact Assemblymember Flora. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Limón represents California’s 37th Assembly District, which includes over half of the County of Santa Barbara, as well as nearly a quarter of the County of Ventura. Click here to contact Assemblymember Limón. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember McCarty represents California’s 7th Assembly District, which includes Sacramento, West Sacramento and parts of unincorporated Sacramento County. Click here to contact Assemblymember McCarty. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Nazarian represents California’s 46th Assembly District, which includes the Hollywood Hills, Lake Balboa, North Hills, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Universal City, Van Nuys, and Valley Village. Click here to contact Assemblymember Nazarian. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Ramos represents California’s 40th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Highland, Loma Linda, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino. Click here to contact Assemblymember Ramos. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Rodriguez represents California’s 52nd Assembly District, which includes portions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Click here to contact Assemblymember Rodriguez. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Santiago represents California’s 53rd Assembly District, which includes Boyle Heights, Downtown Los Angeles, Koreatown, Pico Union and the surrounding areas. Click here to contact Assemblymember Santiago. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Assemblymember Waldron represents California’s 75th Assembly District, which includes Riverside and San Diego counties; Escondido, San Marcos, Temecula, Bonsall, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Lake San Marcos, Pala, Rainbow, Valley Center. Click here to contact Assemblymember Waldron. Sample email text: Please advance SB855 so that CA families can get the mental health and addiction care they deserve. We need insurance coverage for treatment!

Act now to support SB 855—there is no health without mental health!

 

Senate Bill 855 is sponsored by The Kennedy Forum and the Steinberg Institute.

We would like to thank the following organizations for their support of SB 855:

Alkermes, Inc; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; American Psychological Association; Anaheim Lighthouse; Autism Deserves Equal Coverage; California Academy of Physician Assistants; California Access Coalition; California Alliance of Child & Family Services; California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, Inc.; California Association of Local Behavioral Health Boards and Commissions; California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT); California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP); California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies; California Insurance Commissioner, Ricardo Lara; California Narcotic Officers Association; California Pan-Ethnic Health Network; California Psychiatric Association; California State Association of Counties (CSAC); California State PTA; California Society of Addiction Medicine; Children Now; City of San Jose; Crestwood Behavioral Health Inc.; Congress of California Seniors; County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California (CBHDA); Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance California; Disability Rights California; Drug Policy Alliance; Friends Committee on Legislation of California; GLIDE; Health Access; Helpline Youth Counseling Inc.; Latino Coalition for a Healthy California; Legal Action Center; Los Angeles Board of Supervisors; Los Angeles LGBT Center; Mental Health America of California; Mental Health and Autism Insurance Project; Mental Health Association of San Francisco; National Association of Social Workers, California; National Alliance on Mental Illness California (NAMI-CA); National Health Law Program; National Center for Youth Law; National Union of Healthcare Workers; Orange County Recovery Collaboration; Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California; Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California; The Association of Local Behavioral Health Boards and Commissions; Western Center on Law and Poverty