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AB 470 (Arambula) – the “Mental Health Equity Act” Advances

AB 470 (Arambula) – the “Mental Health Equity Act” Advances

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network continues to move the needle on health justice by integrating health equity into statewide policies including mental health. Assembly Bill 470 (Arambula), sponsored by CPEHN, passed out of the Assembly Health committee with bipartisan support. The bill aims to reduce mental health disparities by establishing robust tracking and evaluation measures to ensure Medi-Cal beneficiaries are receiving timely access to quality mental health services that meet their cultural and language needs as required by law.

During the committee hearing Assemblyman Arambula shared a striking statistic: Approximately 92% of adults in California who do not speak English as their primary language report unmet needs for mental health services, with about 70% receiving no treatment at all.

Finding a provider who will treat them can be extremely challenging for smaller, rural communities for which English is not their native language. As Genevieve Flores-Haro, Associate Director of the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project indicated that though they have a good partnership with their county mental health department, and "regularly refer community members to county mental health services," "families claim there is a time gap from the moment they are referred, deemed eligible (3 weeks), and until they ultimately receive service (3 months). Timely access is crucial for seasonal farmworkers who are constantly migrating and are unable to attain mental health care due to the lengthy process.”

While mental health challenges impact everyone, communities of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBT, and limited English proficient communities have experienced decades of trauma that also impact their mental health and well-being. These communities also have lower rates of accessing necessary mental health services but without proper data, addressing these rates remains a challenge.

“Due to the lack of data, we still have a lot to learn about LGBTQ mental health disparities,” noted Amanda Wallner, Director of the California LGBT Health and Human Services Network. “The data that will be collected and made available as a result of this bill will improve our information about mental health disorders in LGBTQ communities, access to care, and how we can successfully address and reduce LGBTQ mental health disparities.” 

AB 470 will help to reduce mental health disparities by requiring the state to report how well local counties are doing at providing care and improving the health outcomes of all their residents. The bill requires state oversight and stakeholder engagement in identifying a set of standard metrics that will ensure historically underserved communities have access to appropriate mental health care. The bill will be heard in the Assembly Appropriation committee in the upcoming weeks.

Contact Kiran-Savage-Sangwan, Health Integration Policy Director, at ksavage@cpehn.org to learn more about how you can support this bill.

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