Another bill aimed at boosting the California health and behavioral health workforce — and another important piece of the Steinberg Institute’s 2020 legislative package — has been signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.
AB 890, authored by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), will enable licensed nurse practitioners in California to work to the full scope of their license and their potential by expanding their ability to treat patients, including those affected by mental health challenges, without a physician’s supervision.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses with extra training who have earned advanced degrees — either a master’s degree or a doctorate. There are currently nearly 28,000 nurse practitioners in California, according to the California Board of Registered Nursing.
Expanding the role and authority of nurse practitioners will help address the large and growing shortage of primary care physicians in California. The policy change was one of the top 10 recommendations released last year by the California Future Health Workforce Commission, a statewide body tasked with recommending ways to increase the state’s health care workforce. Assemblymember Wood was a member of the Commission and Steinberg Institute Executive Director Maggie Merritt was a member of the Commission’s technical advisory committee.
Prior to the passage of this law, California was the only western state that restricted nurse practitioners from practicing without physician oversight. The US Dept. of Veterans Affairs also gives 6,000 NPs working in the VA system this authority.
In another action recommended by the workforce commission, Governor Newsom previously signed SB 803, authored by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose), which requires the state to establish a system for certifying peer support specialists — lay people who have personal experience with the mental health system and use their insights and empathy to help others struggling with similar issues.
Together, the two measures will help programs and clinics around the state deploy more people with the right skills to help Californians who are grappling with mental health challenges, said Steinberg Institute’s Maggie Merritt.
“These two new laws will help beef up the mental health workforce in California at a time when we desperately need to do just that,” Merritt said. “As a result of the governor signing these bills, highly skilled nurses will be able to provide clinical treatment and specially trained peer supporters will be able to provide empathic support to people with mental health needs. Thank you, Governor Newsom.”