CHCF Testifies to Lawmakers About Newsom’s Behavioral Health Modernization Proposal

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Street medicine team from Venice Family Clinic speaks with person experiencing homelessness.
Members of a medical team provide care to a person experiencing homelessness on a street corner in Culver City, California. Photo: Jessica Brandi Lifland

On August 22, California lawmakers held an informational hearing about behavioral health and a hearing on Senate Bill 326, Governor Gavin Newsom’s move to overhaul the state’s Mental Health Services Act. Some local mental health programs are supported by the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax,” which has generated billions of dollars in revenue since it was passed by voters in 2004. Most of those funds go to county behavioral health departments and other local agencies.

The governor wants to dedicate more of that money to housing and treatment for Californians experiencing homelessness. Counties and other stakeholders are concerned that current programs would lose funding to make the numbers work.

Katie Heidorn, director of state health policy for the California Health Care Foundation, was invited to testify at a Joint Informational Hearing held by the Assembly Committee on Health and the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development. In her testimony, Heidorn provided an overview of the incidence of mental illness and substance use disorder among in California (PDF) and outlined four essential goals for policymakers to consider as the state updates publicly-funded behavioral health systems:

  • Invest in care that is people-centered, grounded in evidence-based practices, and culturally and linguistically accessible for all patients
  • Increase the number of licensed mental health providers as well as community health workers, peers, and lay counselors
  • Hold payers, health plans, and providers accountable for the care they are required to deliver
  • Fund expanded data collection to enable improved quality measurement within the behavioral health care system

SB 326 passed out of the Assembly Health Committee on August 22, is scheduled for a vote in the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, and will be voted on by the full Assembly in September.

Katie Heidorn speaks at Joint Hearing on Health and Housing and Community Development, Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Watch the testimony given by Katie Heidorn, director of state health policy for the California Health Care Foundation, at a state Assembly Joint Informational Hearing on August 22, 2023. The segment begins at the 52-minute mark in the video.


Jessica Brandi Lifland

Jessica Brandi Lifland is a freelance photographer, instructor of journalism at City College of San Francisco, and mother. Her work with publications and nonprofits such as Operation Smile, Tostan, and the California Health Care Foundation has taken her all over the world, including West Africa, the Middle East, Kosovo, Burma, Haiti, and South America. Read More

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