Steinberg Institute

Governor Newsom Signs Mental Health Bills, Strengthening Parity Laws and Expanding Use of Peers

Posted on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Originally published by California State of Mind,, September 25, 2020
by Rob Waters

Read the original story here 

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Monica Vera-Schubert spoke on a video conference to tell the story of her battle with health insurers and to thank Gov. Newsom for signing into law a strong mental health parity bill passed by California legislators.

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Newsom holds aloft one of five mental health bills he signed today.

SB 803 requires the state to establish statewide requirements for certifying peer support specialists. Counties that choose to do so would be responsible for implementing and managing the program and could access federal funds to partially cover the cost of employing peers, helping expand the workforce of people who can respond to the state’s mental health crisis. It was co-sponsored by the Steinberg Institute, the California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations, the California County Behavioral Health Directors Association and Los Angeles County.

AB 1976 (Eggman, D-Stockton), amends the bill known as Laura’s Law, making it permanent and requiring all counties to implement the program, unless they formally opt out of doing so. The original 2002 law authorized counties to start programs to provide intensive assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) to people suffering from severe mental illness and enabled judges to order treatment for those who declined to accept offered services.

AB 1766 (Bloom) would require the state Department of Social Services to annually report the number of board-and-care homes that serve low-income Californians living with a severe mental illness, track their closures, and notify county behavioral health departments within three days of receiving notice that an operator plans to close a home. Board-and-care homes are considered a crucial, but vanishing, piece of the housing spectrum for people living with severe mental illness. AB 1766 would provide policymakers statewide data to address the loss of these homes and help counties identify appropriate living options for people with severe mental illness.

AB 890 (Wood) would enable licensed nurse practitioners to work to the full scope of their license by expanding their ability to treat patients, including those affected by mental health challenges, without a physician’s supervision. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with extra training who have earned advanced degrees — either a master’s degree or a doctorate. Expanding the role and authority of nurse practitioners will help address the large and growing shortage of primary care physicians in California.  There are currently nearly 28,000 nurse practitioners in California, according to the California Board of Registered Nursing.

AB 2265 (Quirk-Silva) allows counties to use fund from the Mental Health Services Act to treat and assess people believed to be suffering from co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.