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Legislative Briefing Recap:

"Behavioral Health...a Public Health Emergency"

On March, 16, 2021, the California Access Coalition (CAC) and Connection Coalition co-hosted a legislative briefing, entitled: “Behavioral Health...a Public Health Emergency,'' on the current state of behavioral health in California. The briefing began with a welcome remark by Heidi Strunk, President and Chief Executive Officer of Connection Coalition, followed by an introduction to the topic by Dr. Le Ondra Clark Harvey, Executive Director of CAC, and Randall Hagar from EperiCal Policy.

Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman joined the briefing to talk about how her background as a mental health professional and educator has helped her succeed in her position as the Co-Chair of the Senate Mental Health Caucus. The Senator outlined some of the bills she is currently supporting in the legislature, including the recently passed SB 316. This bill allows individuals on Medi-Cal to bill for two office visits in one day, at both a physical care provider and a behavioral health provider, which was previously not covered.

Senator Susan Eggman
Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman

Maye Hayes Jepson and her son, Jason Jepson, then joined us from Virginia to talk about their lived experiences navigating behavioral health care. After Jason’s diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Maye has taken on the role of caring for her son and assisting him in getting the treatment and medication he needs. In the beginning of their journey, the pair faced difficulties getting Jason seen by a mental health care professional near them. Jason is now on a long acting medication, provided through the Veterans Administration (VA), and he is able to care for himself and live on his own. The mother and son duo now spend their time advocating for patients with serious mental illness and educating the public about how to thrive while managing a mental health diagnosis.

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Jason Jepson
Maye Hayes Jepson

In the next segment, Randall Hagar gave a brief overview of the current events related to access to behavioral health care in California. This is followed by Dr. Clark Harvey’s presentation on recent and current legislation related to behavioral health care. These bills cover topics including mental health care for students (SB 224 and SB 14) and expansion of the behavioral health workforce (SB 803, AB 666), among others. Click here for the fact sheets.

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Le Ondra Clark Harvey, Ph.D.

The event concluded with a discussion of access to care in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on how the use of long acting medications and telehealth made quality behavioral health treatment possible. Dr. Clark Harvey shared how some providers went the extra mile for their clients, even going out of their way to see clients through the windows of their homes in order to connect with them during these unprecedented times. While the

COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to providing behavioral health care, the industry has adapted and produced innovative ways to expand access to care that will continue on even after in-person care can resume.

Additional documents from the Legislative Briefing can be found here

Many thanks to our co-sponsor for making this event possible!

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