California is taking steps to address a range of behavioral health issues. From mental health insurance coverage to depression research to addiction treatment, here is the major behavioral health news making headlines in California.
California Legislature Passes Bill to Mandate Mental Health Parity
Insurance companies are required to cover mental and physical health equally, but this has been easier said than done. The California Legislature recently passed a new mental health parity law to bring such coverage closer to a reality.
The proposal must be signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom. Supporters say that the new law would close loopholes used to deny many mental health claims, expand mental health coverage for private insurance, and expand the illnesses covered, including addiction. Insurance companies argue that the new law is unnecessary under current requirements and could increase administrative costs.
Natural Disasters Take Toll on Mental Health
Many survivors of natural disasters, such as wildfires and floods, can experience emotional distress for months and even years after the event. This could be devastating for places like California, where firefighters have been struggling to control multiple fires.
Early research out of UC Davis found that about one in five people who survived the North Bay wildfires in 2017 reported significant symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress up to 10 months later. California state law requires counties to provide mental health services after an emergency event, but only as much as county resources allow. Many poorer, rural counties lack resources to provide sufficient mental health assistance, although the needs are increasing among persistent wildfires and the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.
Mental Health Study Launches at UCLA
UCLA has launched a new, three-year study, sponsored by and in collaboration with Apple, to help improve how mental health providers diagnose and treat depression. This study will measure objective factors such as sleep, physical activity, heart rate, and daily routines, and analyze how they relate to depression and anxiety.
The study will include the use of Apple technology, including iPhone, Apple Watch, and a Beddit sleep-monitoring device. Researchers hope results will help inform healthcare providers and patients of the warning signs of depression and better identify causes and treatments. The study is part of UCLA’s Depression Grand Challenge, an initiative that aims to better understand, identify, and treat depression
California State Funding Goes to Harm Reduction Programs
California is partnering with the nonprofit Harm Reduction Coalition on the new California Harm Reduction Initiative (CHRI) to provide syringe service programs in the state. The state’s 2019 budget included more than $126 million of funding for syringe service providers in different counties.
The National Harm Reduction Coalition is working with the California Department of Public Health, Office of AIDS to help determine how the money is allocated. Funding will go to increased staffing for syringe service programs, as well as technical assistance and training from the coalition.
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